Local Government Ombudsman Criticises Council

Delays in dealing with complaints included a case taking over a year to sort

Wandsworth Council has been criticised for delays in dealing with complaints, in one case taking more than a year to complete an investigation because “the chief officer needed more time.”

Two recent reports by the Local Government Ombudsman, which investigates complaints from the public about councils, highlighted issues with poor communication and “significant” delays in dealing with complaints.

In one case, the council was responsible for helping a father meet with his young child.

The father complained about the way the council had organised this contact, claiming they arranged venues in the borough that presented a risk to the him.

The father, known as Mr Z, was involved in an earlier traumatic incident in which he was attacked and seriously injured.

While the council's first response to Mr Z's complaint was within the time limit, there were a number of delays when he asked for a second stage investigation into the matter.

The council took more than a year to deal with the complaint at this stage.

The Ombudsman notes that the council “offered no explanation for this, other than saying delays can happen and the chief officer needed more time”, and found the council was at fault for taking too long.

It has now been rdered to apologise and pay Mr Z £805 in compensation to cover his loss of opportunity to meet his son and loss of trust in the council, his time and trouble in pursuing the delayed complaint, and for travel receipts not reimbursed by the council.

In another instance, the council took too long to deal with a woman's complaint about the service she received from the housing advisors in its Future First Team, following a dispute she had had with the housing association.

Again, the delay centred on the stage two investigation into the woman's complaint which was not completed within the requisite timeframe.

In this case, it took approximately 89 working days.

Statutory guidance says this should take no longer than 65 working days.

However, in this instance, the Ombudsman found that the actions taken by the council, including an apology and offer of £400 for the time and trouble incurred, and inconvenience and stress caused, were “adequate remedies”.

A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said: “We co-operated fully with the ombudsman's staff, have accepted their findings and recommendations and are committed to taking on board all lessons to be learned.”

Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter

January 16, 2020

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