Ombudsman rules against council over unsafe housing case

Croydon Council has now received EIGHT rulings against it from the Local Government  Ombudsman so far this year – a rate of two per month for failings in children’s services, adult social care, education, housing or planning.

The latest case, reported by the Ombudsman this week, involves a homeless mother and her three children who were fleeing domestic abuse, who Croydon Council placed “in temporary accommodation that had several safety defects”.

Croydon Council has been ordered to pay the woman £650 in compensation for having to live in unsuitable accommodation for five months.

The Local Government Ombudsman process is long and time-consuming for residents – this latest case dates back to 2016 – and usually involves having the resident’s complaints considered at least twice by the council themselves before the ombudsman’s office will even consider looking at the case.

Last month, we reported on how Croydon Council, under its £220,000 per year chief executive Jo Negrini, had already managed to rack up seven complaints in 2019, resulting in the council being forced to issue apologies, and hundreds of pounds in compensation being paid out.

Jo Negrini

Lots of complaints: Jo Negrini

The Ombudsman’s ruling was reached in February, but was only released this week. It arises in a complaint over housing allocation.

The complaints by “Miss X” (the Ombudsman usually keeps individual identities anonymous) included that the council did not do enough when it investigated disrepair at her private rented property in 2016; the council contributed to her eviction from that property when it wrote a letter in support of her landlord’s case, which was used in court proceedings; and that the council moved her to emergency accommodation in Dartford which was unsuitable because of her family circumstances, the condition of the property and the distance she had to travel.

Indeed, when a council official visited the accommodation that it was renting from a private landlord, they found 13 issues with the house, including patchy mould, missing smoke detectors, and exposed electrical wiring.

As if that was not enough, to add insult to the injury, Croydon Council then evicted Miss X and her children from that accommodation and said it no longer had a duty to house her, only changing its decision when when challenged by her legal representative.

In the detailed adjudication handed down by the Ombudsman’s office, it makes clear that some of the difficulties encountered by Miss X may not have been the fault of the council.

But the Ombudsman notes that, “I am not satisfied [the council] took a commonsense approach to Miss X’s move to the temporary accommodation.”

The report states: “The Ombudsman finds the council acted properly in dealing with Miss X’s concerns about her private rented property, however aspects of how it handled her homelessness were [at] fault.

“In particular, it placed her in temporary accommodation that had several safety defects. This caused Miss X an injustice, although the evidence suggests she may have contributed to the length of time finding alternative accommodation took. The council has agreed with the Ombudsman’s recommendation to apologise and pay a financial remedy to Miss X.”

The full adjudication can be found here.

Just as with the other critical rulings handed down by the Ombudsman, you won’t find any reference to it on Croydon Council’s website.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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