Croydon has proved itself to be outstanding once again – but in a manner in which no local authority should ever seek to shine.
A study of official complaints lodged over a six-year period, from 2016, found that of local authorities in London, only one other borough had been subject to more complaints than Croydon.
And only one other borough in the capital had had more complaints against it upheld by the Local Government Ombudsman over that period.
The research was conducted by Claims.co.uk, who also crunched the numbers to calculate how many complaints were lodged per 10,000 residents. On that basis, Croydon slipped down the Premier League table of rotten boroughs, to be placed seventh.
Nine of the 10 most complained about councils are located in Greater London the research discovered. But Croydon’s is hardly a record to encourage local residents.
The period in question covers the time when the council was being run by leader Tony Newman and his Labour cabal, with Jo Negrini as the chief executive.
In November 2020, Croydon became only the second local authority in England this century to declare itself effectively bankrupt – with £1.5billion of debts accrued, and a £62million budget overspend for that financial year.
Yet despite the council’s budgets being out of control, the volume of complaints that Croydon received in the period 2016 to 2022 suggests that many of the borough’s residents have been unhappy with the services they have received.
In total, 1,423 complaints were lodged about Croydon Council with the Ombudsman during the six years (Newham drew the same number of complaints). Of London boroughs, only Lambeth, with 1,440 complaints during the same period, attracted more complaints than Croydon.
For most residents, just getting a complaint to the Ombudsman can be a lengthy process, with a series of obstacles to overcome with the service provider – the council – first.
The Ombudsman also sets a high bar for which complaints the office will even consider, let alone uphold. Of the Croydon complaints, 218 were upheld (Haringey had 226 upheld complaints, the only London borough to have more). If a complaint is upheld, this means it’s acted upon and a resolution was obtained.
To this day, Croydon Council has failed to publish on its website any of the Ombudsman’s reports of those upheld complaints.
For reasons of statistical “fairness”, the figures per 10,000 residents make Haringey officially the council with the most complaints in England, with 45.3 complaints per 10,000 residents.
Lambeth had 44.7 complaints per 10,000 residents. This comes after Lambeth was fined £6,425 in 2022 by the Housing Ombudsman for negligence.
Croydon had 36.6 complaints per 10,000 residents.
The study by Claims.co.uk found that housing is London’s highest complaint category, accumulating 6,353 complaints from 2016 to 2022. Housing was the category of complaint that registered highest in Croydon, where 294 were about housing conditions.
“Council Tax has increased by an average of £67 for Band D properties this year amid the cost of living squeeze,” said Claims.co.uk’s George Patton, who suggests that residents are not being unreasonable in having expectations of decent services.
“Although taking on your council might seem daunting, it’s vital to know your rights as a resident and speak out if you feel that your council has failed to deliver a service.
“Your first step should always be contacting the service provider in question. And if you are not happy with the solution provided, the Local Government Ombudsman will come as a final resort. Be sure not to delay and lodge your complaints as soon as possible.
“Provide clear evidence to support your claim, as the LGO’s decision is final – your case won’t be reviewed again unless new evidence comes to light.”
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