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London borough criticised for not saying sorry

London Borough of Harrow has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for failing to properly remedy a complaint by apologising to a resident.

The man complained to the Ombudsman about the council not taking enforcement action against the owner of a neighbouring property which was empty, had overgrown gardens and was in a state of disrepair.

In February 2020, the council agreed with the Ombudsman’s recommendations to apologise to the man and pay him £200 for the time and trouble in bringing the complaint, within the month.

The Ombudsman wrote to the council’s Chief Executive on a number of occasions to confirm this had been done, but the office either ignored the Ombudsman’s investigator or said it would pass on the query. The council never followed up with a response.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

This complaint highlights the need for councils to deal with all complaints properly. I am particularly disappointed the council did not respond to our enquiries about it complying with the remedy, which mirrored the experiences the man had when he initially complained to it.

“When councils agree to take action, they should make every effort to carry out their agreement swiftly. Not doing so can lead to people losing faith in their authority’s ability to put things right.

“I acknowledge the council has confirmed it has now carried out my recommendations. But by us publishing this report, the council is now required to formally consider its contents at a senior decision-making level which will increase the level of scrutiny on this case.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to provide the apology and £200 it agreed to provide in February, plus a further £100 for the time and trouble in bringing the second complaint.

Article date: 15 December 2020