Local government ombudsman upheld 9 of 95 complaints against Havering Council last year

Havering's cabinet approves plan for multi-million pound investment in the borough's schools. Pictur

Havering's cabinet approves plan for multi-million pound investment in the borough's schools. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The local government watchdog upheld nine of the 95 complaints it received about Havering Council last year, according to figures published this week.

The complaints made last year against the council to the the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) will be discussed at a meeting of the borough's adjudication and review committee next Thursday (September 5).

Last year (2018/19),the LGSCO received 95 complaints and enquiries about Havering Council, up by one on the previous year.

There was however a stark change in which departments complaints centred around, with complaints against children's services rising 87.5pc and housing complaints falling 20pc year-on-year.

However, housing still accounted for the majority of complaints to the Ombudsman, with 28 complaints lodged against that department last year.

Highways and transport was the second most-complained about department, with 16 logged.

The full breakdown of complaints saw 15 made against adult care services, six involving the council's benefits and tax system, one against its corporate services, 15 about education and children's services, three against environment services, nine against planning and development and two miscellaneous other complaints.

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Of the 95 complaints made, the ombudsman made 90 decisions, and of those 90 decisions, 14 lead to detailed investigations into the council's working practices.

Nine of those 14 were upheld - an uphold rate of 64pc, very slightly higher than the rate at similar local authorities and significantly higher than last year's uphold rate of 44pc.

In those nine cases, one involving an improper assessment for a dropped kerb was upheld with no further action needed, but the counci was found guilty of maladministration leading to an injustice in the other eight cases, with five requiring further penalties in the form of payment to the complainants.

In every case in which the Ombudsman found against the council, the recommendations made by the Ombudsman to improve its services were delivered within the timescales set by the investigators.

The largest penalty paid by the council was a £4,000 payout made to a woman who complained to the Ombudsman following a four-year housing battle.

The woman, named as Miss X in the Ombudsman's report, had been placed in a one-bedroom flat in 2013 with a newborn baby, but soon asked for a two-bedroom flat as the shift patterns she worked had led to her regularly waking up her child when she got in.

This was having a negative impact on her child's health, Miss X claimed.

She also told the council a neighbour had begun shouting obscenities at her, putting notes through her doorway and leaving voicemails on her phone at 1am.

This, Miss X argued, was making her fear for her and her child's safety, and they should be moved.

The Ombudsman was told by the council that as the neighbour was not a council tenant it had no power to intervene.

However, in its final analysis of the case the Ombudsman writes: "The council says it did not have the power to intervene because the neighbour is not a council tenant.

"This is incorrect.

"Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 the council has many powers to deal with anti-social behaviour.

"The council can use these powers against any member of the community, not just council tenants.

"Added to this the council has a policy saying what it will do when it gets reports of anti-social behaviour.

"The council took none of the actions in this policy and provided Miss X with no help or support.

"It did not even visit her and discuss the problems.

"This is fault.

"It caused Miss X injustice as she was left scared in her home with no support from the council.

"If the council had given Miss X community contribution award she would have moved before the problems started."

The Ombudsman goes on: "As Miss X could have made a successful bid by the end of 2014 she has spent four and a half years longer than necessary in a one bed-roomed property.

"For over two years she has lived in fear of her neighbour with no support by the council.

"The council will pay Miss X £4,000 in recognition of the injustice this has caused her."