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LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMEN INVESTIGATION REPORTS ISSUED SINCE 5 SEPTEMBER

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Findings of maladministration causing injustice ...
Findings of maladministration causing injustice

Southwark LBC (01/B/17404)

Council housing management, other

'Mr Barlow' (not his real name for legal reasons), who has been a council tenant for over 20 years, complains that the council failed to implement its tenancy check procedure correctly or ensure that its staff were aware of the correct procedure. As a result of this failure, the council served a notice to quit on Mr Barlow, which caused him unnecessary stress and anxiety. He further complains that the council failed to review his complaint properly, leading to additional frustration and inconvenience.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the council pays£500 to Mr Barlow to compensate for the stress and inconvenience he experienced, and for his time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. The council should also ensure that all housing staff are fully trained in the tenancy check procedure, and that officers respond promptly to requests for information for the purposes of complaint investigation.

South Cambridgeshire DC (01/B/12389, 12437, 12439 & 12441) and

Cambridgeshire CC(01/B/12390, 12438, 12440 & 12442)

Environmental health & planning enforcement

Residents of a village complain that both councils failed, over a five year period, to deal with problems relating to noise, litter, and out of hours working from premises which are used for the storage and processing of waste paper and cardboard products. The complainants say that actions by the councils to control activities on the site, by planning conditions and environmental health measures, have not been effective. They believe that this situation has arisen, in part, because of a lack of effective communication between the two councils. The complainants say that, after five years and expenditure in excess of£1,500, they are still suffering nuisance from noise, site activity out of hours, and litter.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice by both councils and, to remedy the injustice, recommends that they:

- pay each complainant household£3,000 for their lost amenity and frustration (cost to be shared equally between the two councils)

- pay£500 each to two couples for their aggravated time and trouble in pursuing the complaint with the councils and the ombudsman (cost to be shared equally between the two councils)

- use their best endeavours to reduce nuisance from the site.

If no significant improvement in noise and/or litter nuisance can be brought about, then the ombudsman recommends that:

- the district council pays the complainants at the rate of£500 for noise for each year from the date of issue of this report

- the county council pays the complainants at the rate of£500 for litter for each year from the date of issue of this report

- in the event of disagreement between the councils and the complainants on whether significant improvement has been brought about, the dispute should be referred to the ombudsman.

Luton BC (00/B/10421)

Housing benefit and local taxation

'Ms Harrison' (not her real name for legal reasons) complained about failures in the way the council dealt with her claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit between June 1998 and November 2000.

The ombudsman finds evidence of delay, inconsistency and other errors which meant that Ms Harrison did not know how much rent and council tax she should have been paying, and so contributed to the arrears and the subsequent court proceedings. He concludes that the distress, anxiety and frustration which she suffered would have been reduced if these failures had not occurred.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the council offers Ms Harrison an ex gratia payment of£500 to recognise her avoidable anxiety and distress, the benefit she may have missed because of the failure to deal properly with her claim for child care allowance, and her time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. He also recommends that the council reviews its administrative arrangements and Ms Harrison's council tax account.

Winchester City Council (01/B/7750 & 15902)

Environmental health & planning enforcement

'Mr Mitchell', 'Mr Fowler' and 'Mr Owen' (not their real names for legal reasons) all live close to a dog boarding kennels. Mr Mitchell complains on behalf of them all that the council:

- failed to take effective action against a statutory nuisance caused by dog barking from the kennels

- delayed in identifying a breach of the planning condition requiring the dogs to be confined at night, despite granting retrospective planning permission for the site during the course of their complaints

As a result, the complainants claim that they have had to endure intolerable levels of dog barking during the day and night.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice on the second part of the complaint, and recommends the council to pay£500 each to Mr Mitchell, Mr Owen and Mr Fowler to compensate for the unnecessary noise nuisance they have endured, and for their time and trouble in pursuing their complaints.

Southwark LBC (01/B/17404)

Council housing management, other

'Mr Barlow' (not his real name for legal reasons), who has been a council tenant for over 20 years, complains that the council failed to implement its tenancy check procedure correctly or ensure that its staff were aware of the correct procedure. As a result of this failure, the council served a notice to quit on Mr Barlow, which caused him unnecessary stress and anxiety. He further complains that the council failed to review his complaint properly, leading to additional frustration and inconvenience.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the council pays£500 to Mr Barlow to compensate for the stress and inconvenience he experienced, and for his time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. The council should also ensure that all housing staff are fully trained in the tenancy check procedure, and that officers respond promptly to requests for information for the purposes of complaint investigation.

South Cambridgeshire DC (01/B/12389, 12437, 12439 & 12441) and

Cambridgeshire CC (01/B/12390, 12438, 12440 & 12442)

Environmental health & planning enforcement

Residents of a village complain that both councils failed, over a five year period, to deal with problems relating to noise, litter, and out of hours working from premises which are used for the storage and processing of waste paper and cardboard products. The complainants say that actions by the councils to control activities on the site, by planning conditions and environmental health measures, have not been effective. They believe that this situation has arisen, in part, because of a lack of effective communication between the two councils. The complainants say that, after five years and expenditure in excess of£1,500, they are still suffering nuisance from noise, site activity out of hours, and litter.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice by both councils and, to remedy the injustice, recommends that they:

- pay each complainant household£3,000 for their lost amenity and frustration (cost to be shared equally between the two councils)

- pay£500 each to two couples for their aggravated time and trouble in pursuing the complaint with the councils and the ombudsman (cost to be shared equally between the two councils)

- use their best endeavours to reduce nuisance from the site

If no significant improvement in noise and/or litter nuisance can be brought about, then the ombudsman recommends that:

- the district council pays the complainants at the rate of£500 for noise for each year from the date of issue of this report

- the county council pays the complainants at the rate of£500 for litter for each year from the date of issue of this report

- in the event of disagreement between the councils and the complainants on whether significant improvement has been brought about, the dispute should be referred to the ombudsman

Luton BC (00/B/10421)

Housing benefit and local taxation

'Ms Harrison' (not her real name for legal reasons) complained about failures in the way the council dealt with her claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit between June 1998 and November 2000.

The ombudsman finds evidence of delay, inconsistency and other errors which meant that Ms Harrison did not know how much rent and council tax she should have been paying, and so contributed to the arrears and the subsequent court proceedings. He concludes that the distress, anxiety and frustration which she suffered would have been reduced if these failures had not occurred.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends that the council offers Ms Harrison an ex gratia payment of£500 to recognise her avoidable anxiety and distress, the benefit she may have missed because of the failure to deal properly with her claim for child care allowance, and her time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. He also recommends that the council reviews its administrative arrangements and Ms Harrison's council tax account.

Winchester City Council (01/B/7750 & 15902)

Environmental health & planning enforcement

'Mr Mitchell', 'Mr Fowler' and 'Mr Owen' (not their real names for legal reasons) all live close to a dog boarding kennels. Mr Mitchell complains on behalf of them all that the council:

- failed to take effective action against a statutory nuisance caused by dog barking from the kennels

- delayed in identifying a breach of the planning condition requiring the dogs to be confined at night, despite granting retrospective planning permission for the site during the course of their complaints

As a result, the complainants claim that they have had to endure intolerable levels of dog barking during the day and night.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice on the second part of the complaint, and recommends the council to pay£500 each to Mr Mitchell, Mr Owen and Mr Fowler to compensate for the unnecessary noise nuisance they have endured, and for their time and trouble in pursuing their complaints.

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