Southwark LBC (01/B/1669)
Housing benefit and local taxation
'Ms Phillips' (not her real name for legal reasons) complained, through her solicitors, about delays and other failures in dealing with claims for housing and council tax benefit. The council was at fault in delaying in dealing with claims, sending inadequate notifications of decisions, failing to deal with requests for review of benefit decisions and failing to respond to formal complaints about those failures. During much of this time, Ms Phillips was under threat of eviction by the council.
The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends the council should:
- complete a comprehensive review of Ms Phillips' entitlement to benefit
- offer her an ex gratia payment of£500 for her time and trouble
- undertake reviews of procedures for processing correspondence on benefit claims and for recording and monitoring investigation of complaints
Local settlement report
Lincolnshire CC (01/C/2760, 2762 & 6749)
'Mr Walker' (not his real name for legal reasons) complains that the council has failed to complete three applications he made in 1989 and 1993 for modification orders to amend the definitive map of rights of way in the county.
The investigation showed that the council had a significant backlog of modification orders and that it was processing them at a rate which meant that the backlog would take 65 years to clear. The council's formal priority system for dealing with cases had broken down and an informal, unpublicised system was operating in its place. The ombudsman finds that there was maladministration.
In consequence, Mr Walker's applications were not dealt with as effectively as they should have been and he was not made aware of how the council was treating them. The rights of way he was seeking to have added to the map have not been confirmed, and Mr Walker has not been able to use, or encourage others to use, the paths.
The council has agreed to the following:
-it will provide additional resources to deal more quickly with the backlog of modification orders. It is also reviewing the way it sets priorities amongst the applications which await processing;
-it will take action on one of Mr Walker's applications by June 2002. The other two will be dealt with ahead of other cases which have been given a similar priority by the council;
-it will pay Mr Walker£300 to reflect the time and trouble he has taken to pursue his complaint.
The ombudsman considers this will provide a satisfactory local settlement to the complaint.