Ombudsman raps council for not saying sorry

The London Borough of Harrow has been criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for not following up on its agreement to apologise to a resident who made a complaint in February of this year.

The man complained to the Ombudsman about the council not taking enforcement action against the owner of a neighbouring property which 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 several occasions to confirm this had been done, but the office either ignored the Ombudsman's investigator or said it would pass on the query. But, according to the watchdog, the council never followed up with a response.

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Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said that the council's failure to reply to the investigator's queries disapprovingly mirrored the experiences of the man when he had initially complained to Harrow council.

King added: "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."

Following the Ombudsman's report, Harrow agreed to provide the apology and the £200 it agreed to provide in February, plus a further £100 for the time and trouble in bringing the second complaint.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The council has apologised to both the complainant and the ombudsman for the time taken to implement the recommendations made, and acknowledges that the delay in response has caused further concern for the complainant. Officers have since reviewed the process to ensure that any future recommendation are implemented within reasonable timeframes.

“All recommendations have been complied with, and officers are proactively working towards a long term solution to what has been an ongoing matter of concern for local residents on this site.”

Adam Carey

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