Local government ombudsman writes to council boss to outline concerns, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Haringey Council had the highest number of complaints upheld in London by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, according to the latest figures.
The ombudsman upheld 27 complaints against the local authority in the year ending 31st March 2021, sparking calls for an urgent review by Liberal Democrat opposition councillors.
Haringey was also behind similar authorities when it came to carrying out the ombudsman’s recommendations and resolving complaints before they reached the ombudsman.
Council leader Peray Ahmet pledged to learn from the findings “to ensure similar situations are not repeated”.
Cases highlighted by local government and social care ombudsman Michael King in a letter to the council’s chief executive included a failure to properly support a family threatened with homelessness.
Michael wrote: “We found evidence that some of your officers were unaware of current law or your own procedures, or had chosen to disregard them.”
In a separate case, the ombudsman found the council failed to comply with the recommendations it had agreed to following an investigation into a housing benefit case, leading to a follow-up complaint. The ombudsman wrote: “This was a frustrating process for the individual concerned and led to significant additional resources being required from my office and your council to resolve the situation satisfactorily.”
Michael added: “Overall, your council’s complaint handling and responses to this office have fallen below the standards we expect.
“The concerns I have are indicative of corporate, systemic issues, and I ask that you urgently consider your council’s approach to all aspects of its complaint handling, prioritising good standards of administrative practice, and seeking to improve the process and outcomes for people who complain to you.”
Lib Dem group leader Luke Cawley-Harrison said many residents would not be surprised that the borough was “the worst in London for complaints against the council”.
He said: “These statistics reflect the numerous cases we have had raised with us by residents who have been failed by the council rather than supported.
“Haringey needs to urgently review how it has found itself in this position, and a wholesale change of how the council treats residents needs to take place because it is simply not good enough.”
Cllr Ahmet said: “I’ve been leader since the end of May 2021, and I am determined that under my watch we will make sure that the residents of Haringey will be treated differently in the future.
“We will absolutely learn lessons from the local government ombudsman’s findings and recommendations to ensure similar situations are not repeated.
“The council has already apologised for the mistakes we made in these specific cases and have taken steps to fix them.
“The wellbeing of residents is a priority for all of us in Haringey Council, and I expect us all to deliver services to the highest standards for them.”