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Independent adjudicator to oversee Grenfell rehousing complaints

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Kensington & Chelsea RBC is seeking to appoint an independent adjudicator to oversee complaints relating to Grenfell in a bid to increase transparency.

While the council “has received few formal complaints to date”, a report due to go before the executive next Monday said “it is anticipated that numbers of complaints will increase” in the future once more rehousing policies are defined and implemented.

As a result Kensington & Chelsea wants to appoint an independent adjudicator on a part-time basis, and pay them between £53,200 and £72,000 a year, to deal with complaints which have been escalated to the highest level over the next year.

“He or she would review complex and sensitive cases, challenge evidence, question officers and form an independent judgement and propose redress where appropriate,” the report said.

A three-stage corporate complaints procedure is currently in operation at Kensington & Chelsea. Stage one complaints are dealt with by a service manager, stage two by a head of service, and stage three by a director or executive director. The independent adjudicator would effectively become the third stage in this process, although complainants will have the option of having their issue investigated by a director or executive director if they so wish.

The council previously had no central complaints team but a small one has been set up as part of a pilot programme.

“The complaints team will handle all complaints relating to the Grenfell rehousing process, the key work service, assistance centres and any other area of the Grenfell directorate,” the report said.

It added the team “will log, track and report on Grenfell complaints and will use the learning from complaints to improve service delivery and service user experience”. There is a hope this will help to improve the complaints process and provide “greater quality control, better intelligence and insight, and a greater degree of objectivity and independence”.

The report acknowledges the fact Kensington & Chelsea “is operating against the backdrop of a deficit of trust” in both the council’s policies and procedures.

The independent adjudicator role has already been used by Lewisham LBC where Kensington & Chelsea’s chief executive Barry Quirk was in charge before he took up this role.

“Conversations with colleagues at Lewisham suggest that their independent adjudicator provides an additional layer of independence and objectivity to the complaints process, which is welcomed by complainants,” the report said. It added “the adjudicator is also a source of valuable feedback” to councillors and senior officers on “policies, systems and processes”.

“Advice has been sought from colleagues at Lewisham on the design and operation of the independent adjudication service,” the report said.

Kensington & Chelsea want their independent adjudicator to be “someone with no connection to the borough who lives and works remotely, coming to the Town Hall to attend meetings with staff or complainants only when necessary”. The report added: “He or she will have an informal reporting arrangement (a ‘dotted line’) to a director outside the Grenfell directorate but will deliver a report to the leadership team and chief executive on a regular basis and will be responsible directly to them.”

In the future, any complaints which relate to ‘business as usual services’ or have an available statutory route will be unaffected by the new process and complainants would be still be able to go the Local Government Ombudsman if they so wish.

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