Housing almo responsible for third of complaints passed to town hall watchdog
A third of the complaints investigated by a town hall watchdog last year were about a notorious housing management company which oversees the maintenance of the council’s homes.
Lambeth Living (LL) has been blamed for the high level of complaints passed to the Local Government Ombudsman in 2011/12, which totalled 169.
Officers stressed the failings of the organisation in a report to Lambeth Council’s Corporate Committee on Tuesday (June 26). In the report, they said the overall number of grievances passed to the Ombudsman was “much higher” than expected because of the number of enquiries about the almo being upheld.
It said complaints were “not necessarily being investigated thoroughly or being satisfactorily resolved”.
It added: “This means that by the time [the complaints] get to the Ombudsman there are still outstanding issues that have to be resolved, as well as an increased pressure on resources.”
The watchdog issued three reports of maladministration against the council last year- all of which were about failures in LL’s repair service.
The Corporate Committee report said complaints were for “delays in carrying out work, missed appointments and poor management of contractors.”
It said LL had since “taken steps” to address the issues identified and its progress was being monitored.
Formal criticisms made against a council are only escalated to local government investigators when its own procedures fail.
Last year, Lambeth received the third highest number of Ombudsman complaints of any local authority in the UK.
Councillor John Whelan, Conservative group leader, said the council needed to adopt a “zero tolerance” to customer service failings because taxpayers were ultimately paying the price when the Ombudsman ordered for compensation to be paid to tenants.
He said: “Residents would have no need to go to the Ombudsman if the Lambeth Living complaints system operated properly.”
But a Lambeth Living spokesman said it was carrying out more repairs on time, adding fewer residents had made complaints to the Ombudsman in 2011/12 than the previous year.
He said the three recent reports of maladministration were “older cases” in which tenants had been “let down badly”.
The report also noted complaints about the local authority’s children and young people’s service had doubled since 2010.
Lambeth received 30 angry letters from residents relating to its provisions for the borough’s youth in 2011/12 compared to just 15 in 2010/11.
Officers said a third of those complaints were about school admissions, but of the 24 cases, only four were upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman.
The report author’s said it was “positive” only a small number had been upheld but said the council should consider why there was “such a large increase” in order to reduce the numbers in the coming year.