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OMBUDSMEN INVESTIGATION REPORTS ISSUED SINCE 5 OCTOBER 1995

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

Melton BC (94/B/4485)

Council housing repairs

A woman, who has an asthmatic daughter, complained about shortcomings in the council's response to problems of dampness in her home. She had applied for a transfer and the ombudsman criticised the council for applying its policy of transfers and rent arrears too rigidly, for failing to make enquiries about the medical circumstances of the woman's daughter, and for not having a published appeals procedure relating to the transfer list.

Maladministration was found, but this did not cause injustice. However, the ombudsman found maladministration which did cause injustice, in the council's failure to carry out repairs to the woman's home.

Manchester City Council (94/C/1830)

Special educational needs

The council unreasonably delayed making a decision on whether or not to assess the complainant's son for special educational needs following her formal request in march 1994. As a consequence, the complainant's son has been denied proper consideration of his special educational needs and she has been denied the opportunity to pursue an appeal to a special educational appeal tribunal at the earliest possible date.

Barrow-in-Furness BC (92/C/2301)

Housing benefit

A landlord complained that the council was failing to administer properly the payment of housing benefit. The council failed to make interim payments because it incorrectly applied the housing benefit regulations; it did not have adequate procedures for identifying vulnerable claimants; there were errors arising from a new computer system which was also unable to process payments in accordance with the council's legal obligations, and staff did not receive adequate training in its operation; the council failed to fulfil its side of an agreement to pay the landlord directly; it lost correspondence and documents; it made incorrect determinations of eligible rent; and it failed to respond to all queries. Other allegations against the council were not upheld.

Brent LBC (92/A/2210)

Education

An Asian cultural, religious and educational association complained that the council mismanaged £92,000 granted by the department of the environment to refurbish premises for the association's sole use as a community centre. The ombudsman found that, because the council believed that the money from the DoE would be lost if work on the scheme did not start without further delay, corners were cut and a number of mistakes were made.

As a result, the extent of the works required was underestimated and the council spent over twice as much as planned on refurbishing the building. The DoE would not accept the overspend and withdrew approval of all further funding. The building was not handed over to the association, and subsidence and vandalism led to further costs. The council then decided to dispose of the building without consultation.

Haringey LBC (93/A/260)

Social services

The complainant alleged that the council failed to deal properly with matters relating to the care of his son, and in particular that it delayed in carrying out the necessary assessment to identify a placement appropriate to his needs (he has both educational and behavioural problems). The ombudsman found that there was serious administrative deficiencies in the council's handling of the matter and he concludes that the council did no properly discharge its responsibilities for the complainant's son between October 1991 and October 1992.

Lewisham LBC (94/A/2055)

Special educational needs

The complainant's autistic son attended a special school. She complained about the way the council decided to cease to maintain his statement of special educational needs and its failure thereafter to secure suitable alternative provision for him.

The council failed to notice that there was no final statement on the boy's file when the decision was taken to cease to maintain it; failed to advise the complainant of the proposed decision in writing to tell her formally of her right to make representations; failed to keep a full record of the panel meeting when the case was discussed or to submit a full report of it for consideration by members; and failed to fulfil its duty to provide full-time education for any pupil up to 19 years of age who is registered at a school

In addition, the complainant was not told she was entitled to seek a reassessment of her son's special educational needs, and there was inadequate liaison between the council's education and social services departments.

FINDINGS OF MALADMINISTRATION WHICH DID NOT CAUSE INJUSTICE

Tunbridge Wells BC (93/A/4291)

Building regulations

A two-storey rear extension was built adjoining the complainant's home which did not comply with the building regulations. There was no maladministration by the council in approving the plans - if the extension had been built in accordance with the plans it would have satisfied the regulations. The ombudsman did not find maladministration by the council for not identifying the breaches in regulations while work was in progress.

The delay by the council in determining the date of the breach of the regulations did amount to maladministration. But this did not cause injustice because, even if the council had considered the opportunity of taking formal enforcement action immediately, it could reasonably have concluded that it was already out of time.

FINDINGS OF NO MALADMINISTRATION

Thanet DC (93/A/1994)

Planning

The complainant alleged that the council failed to advise him properly about the requirements for a house in multiple occupation. In his planning applications, the complainant did not indicate that the property was anything other than a single family dwelling. A condition was attached to the planning permission for a three storey side extension, requiring the property to be uses as a single dwelling.

Although the plans showed kitchens on each of the three floors and the building control application referred to 'let rooms', the ombudsman concluded that the principal responsibility for complying with statutory requirements lay with the applicant.

Torridge DC (93/B 1917)

Environmental health

The complainant alleged that there were shortcomings in the way the council dealt with complaints about noisy cockerels on nearby land. He complained that the decision of the environmental services committee not to take any further action on his complaints was unreasonable and biased against him. The ombudsman did no uphold his complaint.

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