Lambeth’s housing under scrutiny over ‘maladministration’

Labour-controlled Lambeth Council has become the first local authority to be subjected to close scrutiny by the Housing Ombudsman over what the watchdog describes as “maladministration” and mistreatment of council tenants.

The move follows an investigation into the council’s complaint-handling practices.

The Ombudsman inspection will test Lambeth’s handling of complaints, including compliance with recent orders, recommendations, and previous decisions regarding service improvements.

In a statement issued this morning, the Housing Ombudsman said that it “has raised concerns with Lambeth Council after residents from a previously resolved case had the problems return”.

They added, “The landlord once again did not deal with the issues satisfactorily and the Ombudsman found maladministration.

“This led to the Ombudsman using paragraph 11 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme to scrutinise evidence of complaints handling. We did this through an inspection of the landlord including through an in-person inspection of evidence. It is the first time these powers have been used.”

The Housing Ombudsman is Richard Blakeway, a former deputy Mayor of London under Boris Johnson.

Unimpressed: Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway

The statement issued by his office this morning said that Lambeth’s “poor complaint handling” in these subsequent cases failed to follow the council’s own policies, as well as “failing to fully investigate the issues” and not offering appropriate remedies.

“The Ombudsman would have expected to see more improvement in complaint handling following its special report in February 2022. Especially as the landlord should have been aware of the issues in complaints previously investigated.”

Better order in a bumper supply of pop corn: the Ombudsman is to stage an open meeting with council tenants in Lambeth in September “to hear about the issues facing them and the landlord”.

Lambeth’s controversial gentrification of its council estates has seen the authority lose “many millions” of pounds in failed schemes, and caused residents on several estates a decade of uncertainty and misery.

Late last year a review conducted by Lord Bob Kerslake ordered the council to conduct an embarrassing climbdown and wind up its arms-length housebuilding company Homes for Lambeth, describing its performance as “very poor”.

Repeat offenders: it is six months since the Ombudsman intervened in five cases of maladministration

One of the campaign groups set up in opposition to Lambeth’s demolition plans, Save Cressingham, reacted to today’s Ombudsman’s announcement by tweeting, “Finally the authorities are opening their eyes to Lambeth‘s horrendously poor treatment of residents and their homes.

“We hope the Housing Ombudsman’s investigation goes beyond this one case -because the issues are widespread and endemic in Lambeth.”

It is just six months since the Housing Ombudsman found Lambeth guilty of five cases of severe maladministration, ordering it to pay out thousands of pounds in compensation.

In response to the findings, Lambeth this morning expressed extreme disappointment and issued an apology for their shortcomings in addressing the resident’s complaint.

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1 Response to Lambeth’s housing under scrutiny over ‘maladministration’

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    This is a wonderfull piece of news and congrats to Mr R Blakeway.

    Sadly Lambeth is not the only place where this happens. And not just in Housing.
    Too often Council administrations share ”best practice” which at times is not ”Best” but just the latest wheeze to tick a box quickly and easily whilst doing sod all to fix the issues. In effect levelling down standards to non existence!

    Foe example – Nicola Townsend signing off planning conditions purportedly discharged by Landlord developers without actually checking that they had really been discharged and ignoring evidence pretty much spoon fed (ie flash drive) to her department that those said conditions were not actually discharged and that the Landlord was not just gilding a lily but blatently mis-representing in writing he had discharged said conditions.

    “This led to the Ombudsman using paragraph 11 of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme to scrutinise evidence of complaints handling. We did this through an inspection of the landlord including through an in-person inspection of evidence. It is the first time these powers have been used.”

    It will not come as a surprise that Council actually have the ability to do their own in person inspections – thereby preventing those incidents from occurring in the first place.

    If Mr Blakeway ever wishes to use that process more and do real inspections with boots on the ground more regularly he will find that the first time systemic use of that power, to be most effective. if short of resource there are many retired people skilled in this area and forensic investigations also willing to volunteer, thereby saving some costs.
    We will then have a worthwhile regulator and Councils will have to change their practices and actually do the job diligently and effectively. But this Government will also have to provide a resource to the Council also.

    A classic Jo Heller catch 22 situation.

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