Agenda item

This report evaluates and sets before Cabinet the position following the publication of a report on 21 March 2019 by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO). The report was issued after an investigation into the handling of an historic homelessness case which initiated over six years ago, in December 2012.

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer

Decision:

That Cabinet

 

1)  Note and acknowledge the important public role of the Ombudsman in scrutinising and reviewing the actions of local authorities, together with the legally binding nature of findings of maladministration and injustice that he has made against the Council regarding the handling of an historic homelessness and housing matter.

2)    That Cabinet note that the Allocations Policy will be considered by the Scrutiny Committee when it undertakes its annual review of the housing allocation policy in September 2019

Recommendation to Council: That

3)    Council endorse the actions already taken, namely the written apology to the applicant and the procedural change to the published scheme of allocations and to advise recipients of housing decision letters of their right to complain to the ombudsman.

4)    Cabinet accepts and recommends to Council the recommendation in the report to pay compensation to the applicant of £4,500.

5)    The recommendation to make the applicant top of the list for each eligible property he bids for until that bid is successful, be rejected for the reasons stated in paragraph 3.8.1(c) of this report as it is not considered appropriate for Mr X to have priority over applicants who may be fleeing abuse or violence, or are dealing with acute and life limiting medical conditions

6)    Council note that instead of giving Mr X the priority recommended by the ombudsman, the applicant’s housing application has been reinstated with a registration date backdated to January 2013 reinstating him to the position he would have been had the maladministration not occurred

7)    The recommendations in paragraphs 3, 4, and 5 be adopted as the Council’s formal response under section 31 of the Local Government Act 1974 and that the ombudsman be notified of the actions that the Council has taken or agreed to take

8)    The recommendations in paragraphs 3,4, and 5 be adopted and recommended to Council as the Council’s formal response under section 5A of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and be sent to all members of council and the monitoring officer.

 

 

 

 

Minutes:

The Monitoring Officer introduced the report, which presented the Cabinet with details of the position following the publication of a report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO), following an investigation into the handling of a historic homelessness case initiated over six years ago.  She stated that the council in discharging its homelessness duties, made a decision which impacted on the priority of the applicant on the housing register, who was later removed from the register when the council changed its housing allocations policy.  She referred to paragraphs 3.3 and 3.5 of the report which set out the circumstances of the case and the recommendations from the LGO.  She added that where maladministration had occurred, she had a duty to prepare a report for Cabinet to consider and determine, who must then report its recommendations to Council for consideration, the next council meeting being July.  Following consideration by Council, a response would be made to the Ombudsman.

 

A statement was presented to Cabinet on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Homes and Families where he accepted the findings of the Ombudsman. He stated that whilst the recommendations of the Ombudsman were not legally binding, he considered they should be implemented where possible.  He confirmed that an apology had been made to the applicant and recommended the applicant receive financial compensation.  Furthermore changes had been made to housing review letters to inform applicants about their right to complain to the Ombudsman.  He did not support the Ombudsman’s recommendation to make the applicant the top of the list for each eligible property that he could bid for until successful, as this action would result in the council acting outside of its lawfully adopted Allocations Scheme.  This would also disadvantage those applicants with an urgent or critical need such as applicants fleeing abuse, violence, or those with a debilitating life limiting illness as well as other households with a similar need as the applicant.  He stated that alternative action had been taken to backdate the applicants case to January 2013, the date ordered position if the maladministration had not occurred.  He highlighted that the matter would also be considered as part of the scrutiny process when the scrutiny committee undertakes its annual examination of the Allocations Policy.  He concluded that the applicant had accepted the offer of a three-bedroom property and had moved in.

 

Resolved: That Cabinet

 

1)  Note and acknowledge the important public role of the Ombudsman in scrutinising and reviewing the actions of local authorities, together with the legally binding nature of findings of maladministration and injustice that he has made against the Council regarding the handling of an historic homelessness and housing matter.

2)    Note that the Allocations Policy will be considered by the Scrutiny Committee when it  undertakes its annual review of the housing allocation policy in September 2019

Recommendation to Council: That

1)    Council endorse the actions already taken, namely the written apology to the applicant and the procedural change to the published scheme of allocations and to advise recipients of housing decision letters of their right to complain to the ombudsman.

2)    Cabinet accepts and recommend to Council the recommendation in the report to pay compensation to the applicant of £4,500.

3)    The recommendation to make the applicant top of the list for each eligible property he bids for until that bid is successful, be rejected for the reasons stated in paragraph 3.8.1(c) of the report as it is not considered appropriate for Mr X to have priority over applicants who may be fleeing abuse or violence, or are dealing with acute and life limiting medical conditions

4)    Council note that instead of giving Mr X the priority recommended by the ombudsman, that the applicant’s housing application has been reinstated with a registration date backdated to January 2013 reinstating him to the position he would have been had the maladministration not occurred

5)    The recommendations in paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 be adopted as the Council’s formal response under section 31 of the Local Government Act 1974 and that the ombudsman be notified of the actions that the Council has taken or agreed to take

6)    The recommendations in paragraphs 1,2, and 3 be adopted as the Council’s formal response under section 5A of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and be sent to all members of council and the monitoring officer.

Reasons for the decision:

Section 31(2) of the Local Government Act 1974 requires the Ombudsman report to be laid before the Council and it shall be the duty of the Council to consider the report and notify the LGO of the action which it has taken or proposes to take. 

 

 

 

Supporting documents: