Lambeth LBC (99/A/5860)
Housing benefit and rent accounts
On 3 November 1999 the council received a claim for housing and council tax benefit from 'Mrs Braddock' (not her real name for legal reasons). The council delayed in determining her claim. In January 2000 the council sent Mrs Braddock a notice of seeking possession (NOSP) of her home and, in a covering letter, threatened that her name might be disclosed to the local press should she not keep to an agreement to pay the arrears. In June 2000 the council wrote to tell Mrs Braddock that the council was going to court to get a judgement on the money which they say she owed. The benefit claim was not finally decided until September 2000.
The ombudsman finds that the delay in determining the benefits claim was maladministration. Officers had discretion not to issue a NOSP in cases such as Mrs Braddock's. The council issued her with a notice. The ombudsman says that there is no evidence that consideration was given whether discretion should be applied in Mrs Braddock's case and so he finds that it was maladministration for the council to issue the NOSP. The ombudsman also finds that it was maladministration for the council to threaten that Mrs Braddock's name might be disclosed to the local press, and to threaten court proceedings. Because of its maladministration, the council issued Mrs Braddock with two summonses for council tax she would not have owed if her claim had been determined promptly.
The ombudsman finds that the maladministration caused Mrs Braddock injustice and recommends that the council should pay her£900.
Walsall MBC (99/B/3147)
?Mr Ahmed? (not his real name for legal reasons) applied to the council for a renovation grant. The council acted as his agent in the execution of the works. He complained that there were shortcomings in the standard of the works and in the council?s administration of the grant. The ombudsman considers that the council did not provide sufficient written information to grant applicants, and that the council had not decided properly the maximum level of grant payable.
The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice and recommends the council to pay Mr Ahmed£500 to compensate him for the lost opportunity of appointing a different agent and contractor, and for the time and trouble that followed the council?s failure to put information properly in writing to him.