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LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMEN INVESTIGATION REPORTS ISSUED SINCE 25 JUNE 1998

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Local Government Ombudsmen investigation reports issued since 25 June 1998 ...
Local Government Ombudsmen investigation reports issued since 25 June 1998

Findings of maladministration and injustice

Arun District Council (96/A/5135)

Housing - scheme for housing applicants

The council had a scheme for introducing housing applicants to private landlords. It failed to seek an applicant's consent to pass on to the complainant, a private landlord, details of the applicant's personal circumstances which could have affected the landlord's decision to accept him as a tenant. The house was subsequently damaged and property stolen. The Ombudsman found that responsibility for the anxiety, expense and trouble experienced by the complainant could not be attributed in full to the council's maladministration. The Ombudsman considered that the landlord had not done all that he could reasonably expected to do to protect his own interest. However, the council had contributed to his difficulties, and the Ombudsman recommended it should pay the complainant£600 compensation. It should also review its Notes for Landlord, give written guidance to its staff about the disclosure of information about prospective tenants' personal circumstances and make clear to landlords its policy on the disclosure of such information.

London Borough of Hillingdon (97/B/1293)

Education - home tuition

A woman's daughter became ill and had to remain at home from school. A request for the council to provide home tuition was not considered, and it was some months before such tuition was eventually provided. The Ombudsman recommended the council to pay the complainant a sum equivalent of the cost of providing home tuition for the period for which it was not provided, plus£250 for time and trouble.

London Borough of Haringey (97/A/2293) and

London Borough of Enfield (97/A/2947)

Social services - services for children

A mother complained to the LB Haringey that she thought her small son might have been sexually abused by the husband of a registered childminder in the LB Enfield. Haringey referred the complaint to Enfield for investigation. There were a number of failures by both councils. Haringey failed to send Enfield written details about the issue and did not seek written confirmation that Enfield would conduct the child protection investigation; it did not arrange a strategy meeting; it delayed in referring the family to the Family Centre for advice; and it failed to deal properly with the complaint. Enfield inadvertently and without due cause decided in July 1997 to take no further action; it delayed its investigation until January 1998; and it failed to communicate properly with the complainant and with Haringey. The Ombudsman said both councils should have realised that both must be involved in the matter. He recommended them both to pay compensation to the complainant - Haringey£750 and Enfield£500.

Manchester City Council (95/C/1356)

Land & planning enforcement

The council failed to manage an area of open space beside a busy dual carriageway properly. The land was owned by the council and subject to restrictive covenant which required it to remain for ever open and unbuilt upon and to be planted with shrubs as an ornamental open space. It was covered in trees and bushes and classified for maintenance purposes as a woodland area. When the council became aware that the land was being occupied illegally, bulldozed and large quantities of rubbish dumped, it failed to take action to force the occupier to clear the site completely. If it considered the occupier was not responsible for all the rubbish, it should have taken action to clear the site itself, thus removing the nuisance caused by rubbish spilling onto the adjacent access way and improving the environment. The council wrongly sold the land without advertising its intention to do so. Residents were thus denied the opportunity to object. Conditions of sale required the site to be landscaped and maintained as open space amenity land, but these conditions were not fulfilled. Information provided to the committee deciding on the disposal of land was inaccurate and inadequate. As a result the land was leased to the man who had already taken unauthorised possession of it, ignored planning requirements and adversely affected the amenity of others, and who continued to do so. The Ombudsman recommended the council to pay the complainant, who lived near the site,£500 compensation, to remove any soil or rubbish which had spilled from the site onto his access way and gullies, and to ensure the site was brought into a reasonable condition as soon as possible.

London Borough of Redbridge (95/C/1472 & 2543)

Social services for adults

The complainant is a man in his mid-thirties who suffers from a rare genetic disease. He is a wheelchair user requiring help from carers 24 hours a day. He wished to live an independent life in the community. The council took a hasty decision in agreeing a care package. The council officer who took the decision had no authority to do so and had not sought proper legal advice on whether the council could make such an offer. Had she done so, the offer would not have been made. The council delayed in formally rescinding the offer until after an independent investigation of the man's complaints. Its letter of withdrawal was 'less than frank (not acknowledging the failures...) and contained no apology'. The council failed to spell out in writing that a move neither could nor would be authorised. The council's maladministration unreasonably raised the complainant's expectations, delayed his eventual move by up to two-and-a-half years, and put him and his relatives to enormous time, trouble and expense. An appropriate level of care was not provided for the complainant, and the council also failed to investigate his complaint properly. The Ombudsman recommended the council to pay the complainant£5,500 compensation.

Findings of maladministration but no injustice

Alnwick District Council (97/C/0049)

Drainage

A man complained that the council delayed unreasonably in taking action against house owners to provide an effective drainage system, and also failed to honour an undertaking to pay for the new sewer which would solve the drainage problem. The council reconsidered the extent of its responsibility and reasonably decided it was not responsible. It agreed to contribute to the work required, and the Ombudsman considered that this action settled that part of the complaint. The council's delay in taking action was unreasonable, but without this maladministration the same decision would simply have been taken earlier.

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