Newham Council must pay thousands to residents for failing to deal with complaints properly

Newham Council has been ordered to pay residents thousands of pounds by the Local Government Ombudsm

Newham Council has been ordered to pay residents thousands of pounds by the Local Government Ombudsman. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Newham Council has been ordered to pay a total of £16,832 to residents for failing to deal with their complaints properly and obstructing investigations.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), which probes allegations of maladministration and rights violations by local authorities, investigated 35 complaints against Newham Council between March 2018 and March 2019.

It upheld 27 complaints - 14 per cent more than the London borough average.

The majority of complaints related to housing, care or waste collection issues.

In one case a woman was awarded £162 after she reported 19 missed bin collections in just six months. Newham was also ordered to pay two siblings £800 for delaying to provide adequate carers.

In another case a resident was awarded £6,000 to cover legal fees and the "trouble, distress and outrage" caused by the unacceptable way the council dealt with a complaint about its "NewShare" housing scheme.

Newham was criticised for its "repeatedly poor handling" of two complaints relating to the shared ownership scheme.

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LGO Michael King said: "My investigators faced significant difficulties when investigating two complaints. The council took the view that one of the complaints was not in our jurisdiction to investigate. When my investigator confirmed that it was, the council did not send the information we requested until we threatened a witness summons. In the other complaint, the council provided information that was incorrect.

"My investigators arranged to inspect the council's files and interview those concerned about both complaints in May 2018. Many of those invited to the interviews did not attend and did not give a reason.

"The council only provided some files for one complaint and none for the other. Those interviewed were not aware of the second complaint. The council apologised and said it would courier the missing information to us the next day. It did not do this, and we again had to threaten to issue a witness summons."

Mr King added that the "repeatedly poor handling of these complaints is unacceptable" and said the council should "address its approach to complaints as a matter of urgency".

A spokesman for Newham Council said: "We are not surprised by the issues raised by the Ombudsman regarding these cases, which happened before the new administration took over in May last year. Urgent action was taken to address complaints such as these with a full review of all council services as part of a corporate restructure.

"We take any feedback from the LGO seriously and measures are now in place to ensure information provided in future is both timely and accurate. Our restructured complaints service constantly reviews its operations and performance. We will continue to identify and make improvements to our service to ensure all complaints are thoroughly investigated, quickly responded to and the right outcomes achieved."