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OMBUDSMEN INVESTIGATION REPORTS ISSUED SINCE 14 DECEMBER 1995

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FINDINGS OF MALADMINISTRATION AND INJUSTICE ...
FINDINGS OF MALADMINISTRATION AND INJUSTICE

Newham LBC (92/A/3943)

Social services

The council took six months to complete an investigation into a complaint against a childminder and tell her its conclusion. It also delayed in determining the woman's appeal against de-registering, in dealing with her request to re-register, and in determining her appeal against the refusal of this request. The council's failures caused the complainant anxiety and loss of earnings.

Lambeth LBC (93/A/685)

Housing benefit and homelessness

The ombudsman recommended more than £18,000 be paid for the benefit of a family who had to wait over five years for the council to offer them permanent accommodation. In June 1989 the council decided to offer accommodation to the complainant and his seven children. Permanent accommodation was not made available until September 1994. During this period, the family was moved 34 times to different bed and breakfast accommodation. Much of this accommodation was outside the borough.

The council said the family had to move so often because of complaints by hoteliers. But the ombudsman said: 'It cannot be any surprise that problems arose when so many children were crammed into bed and breakfast accommodation. Indeed, the difficulties that arose should have added impetus to the council's search for a resolution to the family's housing problems.'

The complainant warned the council in 1990 that the moves were disrupting his children's education. In fact, except for some short periods, the children received no formal education for years.

The complainant made four claims for housing benefit between April 1989 and April 1992. None were processed until 31 August 1992. Because the council had not processed the claims it failed to send reminders required by the housing benefit regulations to say that the claims would lapse if the complainant did not complete the appropriate forms. As a result, there was a gap in the complainant's benefit entitlement.

Carrick DC (94/B/1304)

Planning enforcement

The council failed to properly investigate complaints about an unauthorised hut on land near the complainants' homes, and failed to evaluate a proper course of action to deal with the matter between 1989 and 1992. This led to the hut becoming, in effect, a permanent addition to the land. The complainants suffered from noise and disturbance because the hut was used for loading and unloading materials.

Southwark LBC (92/A/1083)

Council housing management and homelessness

A woman complained about racial harassment suffered by her and her family from 1987. the council delayed issuing a Section 64 Notice under the Housing Act 1985, and it failed to consider offering the family suitable four and five bedroom properties, which were in the event allocated to families with lower priority, between October 1991 and June 1992. The woman and her family lived in overcrowded accommodation for at least one year longer than necessary.

Brent LBC (91/A/2540 etal)

Council housing repairs

The ombudsman issued four reports together concerning problems that complainants had with properties acquired by the council which needed major or structural work. Common characteristics were appalling delays, muddle and confusion in identifying problems, deciding what heeded to be done and doing it. In one case the complainant had a tree growing on her roof, causing structural problems and dampness. The family lived in unsatisfactory conditions for nearly eight years as a result of the council's failures (93/A/3736 & 94/A/2492)

Cambridgeshire CC (93/B/3567)

Special educational needs

A man complained about the way the council dealt with the assessment of his son's special educational needs. His son had Asperger's Syndrome (a person of high IQ with autistic tendencies).

The council failed to provide guidance to nursery staff on the recording of, and passing on information about, concerns about children to the council. It failed to keep the complainant informed in writing to keep proper records about progress. There was delay in issuing a final statement, and after it was issued the council delayed in arranging the complainant's appeal to the secretary of state. Other allegations were not upheld.

Liverpool City Council (92/C/3205)

Housing grants

The council delayed in processing applications for mandatory renovation grants, as reported in the Ombudsman's report 92/C/2850 et al (25 October 1995).

Liverpool City Council (92/C/3206)

Housing grants

The council delayed in processing applications for mandatory renovation grants, as reported in the ombudsman's report 92/C/2850 et al (25 October 1995). Also, the complainant's application was not dealt with according to the council's sequencing policy, causing a further month's delay.

Liverpool City Council (94/C/3542)

Highways and planning

The council gave a woman misleading advice about her proposal to erect gates across an alleyway next to her home. The council failed to provide a comprehensive and co-ordinated response to the request for information, which led to the failure to advise her of the need for planning permission and a closure order. The council has indicated that it will seek the removal of the gates, and if it succeeds the woman will have incurred unnecessary expense as a result of the council's maladministration.

Newham LBC (94/A/301)

Special educational needs

The council delayed in issuing a draft statement of special educational needs for the complainant's son. After the formal assessment began in July 1992, the draft should have been issued no later than January 1993, but it was not issued until March 1994. The delay was due in large measure to the failure of the head teacher to provide educational advice within a reasonable period of it being requested.

Manchester City Council (93/C/2602)

Special educational needs

The council delayed in carrying out a reassessment of a woman's son's special educational needs, and in issuing a revised statement of those needs.

DISCONTINUATION REPORT (LOCAL SETTLEMENT)

Hertsmere BC (92/B/2299 et al)

Council housing management and homelessness

Between 1992 and 1994 the ombudsman received 11 complaints about the council's policies and procedures relating to applications for transfers and allocations of housing. The investigation revealed some serious faults in the way the council dealt with homelessness applications, medical transfer requests and rent arrears cases. Of particular concern was the failure to have any mechanism in place for considering special cases.

The ombudsman described the council's treatment of the complainants as 'harsh and unreasonable'.

The council reviewed its policies and procedures in relation to homelessness applications and began to set up an appeals procedure. The council's housing stock was transferred to two housing associations in 1994 and so no recommendations were made about non-homelessness policies and practices.

The council offered to pay compensation totalling £27,700 to ten of the 11 complainants. The eleventh complaint was discontinued because the complainant took judicial review proceedings. Individual compensation payments ranged from £250 to £4,500. the ombudsman therefore discontinued his investigation, but issued a report because of public interest in the matter.

FINDINGS OF NO MALADMINISTRATION

South Bedfordshire DC (94/B/444)

Neighbour notification/consultation

A couple complained that the council was at fault for failing to notify them of their neighbour's planning application for an extension to his home. The ombudsman did not uphold the complaint.

Wakefield MDC (94/C/2478)

Council housing repairs

A couple complained that the council failed to respond properly to an emergency call on their behalf that the stove was emitting fumes. The ombudsman did not uphold the complaint.

FURTHER REPORTS

(FIRST REPORT FOUND MALADMINISTRATION AND INJUSTICE)

Bedford BC (93/B/1442-5)

Environmental health

The council agreed in June 1992 to use its best endeavours to ensure that the gypsy site where the complaints lived was refurbished as quickly as possible, and that they were provided with suitable alternative accommodation. The council failed to honour its undertaking because it became determined not to sue a second site to decant the people living at the first one.

As a result of the council's maladministration, the complainants had to live in poor living conditions for three additional winter months during which time they were exposed unnecessarily to the attendant health risks. The council disagreed with the ombudsman's findings and did not pay the compensation recommenced.

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