Salford City Council (99/C/4848)
'Mr Clement' (not his real name for legal reasons), who has physical disabilities, complained that the council failed to provide him with appropriate or alternative accommodation within a reasonable time, following an assessment of his needs.
The ombudsman identified a number of administrative failures which led to delay in providing Mr Clement with alternative accommodation. This was despite the fact that, once it had assessed his needs under section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, it was under a statutory duty to provide for those needs. His case was not monitored and the council was itself unclear about whether the legal duty to provide for Mr Clement lay with its social services or its housing department.
The ombudsman considers that, while some of the delays were caused by Mr Clement himself considering his options, he had not been given sufficient information by the Council to make an informed judgment about those options, and the majority of the delay since 1998 in rehousing Mr Clement was the responsibility of the council.
The ombudsman commends the council for its action in setting up a special needs team to consider cases like that of Mr Clement, and to avoid their falling between Social services and housing. She also commends the council because, after this lengthy delay, it has offered Mr Clement a property suitable to his needs, but larger than he would normally be eligible for. This is in order to enable him to be rehoused, with his carer and her dog, in the area he wants to live.
The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the council should pay Mr Clement£600 compensation for the unreasonable delay in meeting his assessed needs.
Chelmsford Borough Council (99/B/3069)
Planning consideration/neighbour amenity and environmental health
'Mr and Mrs Exe' (not their real names for legal reasons) complained about the way in which the council dealt with a planning application for a building to house a vehicle crusher on a site near their home, and with their subsequent complaints of noise disturbance.
They alleged that the council:
did not give adequate consideration to the impact on neighbours' amenity;
did not take appropriate steps to ensure the building was constructed in accordance with the planning permission; and
did not respond appropriately to their complaints.
After considering all the evidence, the Ombudsman upholds the complaints relating to the handling of the planning application and following up compliance with conditions.
The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the council:
pays Mr and Mrs Exe£1,750 compensation for unnecessary noise disturbance;
continues to assess the noise impact on Mr and Mrs Exe of the crushing machine following the installation of the doors, and take any further action which the council considers necessary; and
pays Mr and Mrs Exe a further£250 for their time and trouble in complaining to the council and the ombudsman.
Local settlement report
Waverley Borough Council (99/B/4979 & 5636)
'Mr Bow' and 'Mr Drake' (not their real names for legal reasons) are senior citizens. They complained of delay in arranging for a benefits review board to review the council's decisions to recover in full overpayments of benefit of thousands of pounds. They claimed to have suffered anxiety and uncertainty as a result.
The council accepted that there were faults in the handling of the two cases. In particular, it had not given clear and complete information to the applicants about their rights of appeal, and had not set up a review board promptly when advice bureaux complained to the council on the applicants' behalf.
The ombudsman concludes that the failure to supply correct information to the council in the original applications for benefit was the principal cause of the anxiety which the complainants suffered, but that the council's faults caused them some additional anxiety and uncertainty.
In recognition of its faults, the council offered to pay£100 to each complainant. The council is also taking steps to improve its system for conducting reviews of benefit determinations and to inform applicants of the review processes.
The ombudsman considers that these actions remedy the injustice caused to Mr Bow and Mr Drake, and discontinued his investigation of their complaints. He issued his report because the complainants had raised matters of public interest for residents of the council's area and elsewhere.