Haringey Community Press

Haringey Community Press

Ombudsman issues warning to council over complaint handling

Ombudsman warns council it's falling below the standards it expects

Hero for Ombudsman issues warning to council over complaint handling
Haringey Civic Centre

Haringey Council has been told by the Local Government Ombudsman to take “urgent action” to improve its complaint handling or risk making “repeated failings”.Haringey Council has been told by the Local Government Ombudsman to take “urgent action” to improve its complaint handling or risk making “repeated failings”.

The ombudsman, an independent body that investigates complaints against councils, warned that Haringey was falling below the standards it expects, leading to “poor outcomes” for people who make complaints.The ombudsman, an independent body that investigates complaints against councils, warned that Haringey was falling below the standards it expects, leading to “poor outcomes” for people who make complaints.

The ombudsman upheld 29 complaints against Haringey Council in the year to 31st March – the third-highest number in London. The proportion upheld was slightly below the average for similar authorities.The ombudsman upheld 29 complaints against Haringey Council in the year to 31st March – the third-highest number in London. The proportion upheld was slightly below the average for similar authorities.

In an annual review letter sent to the council on 20th July, ombudsman Michael King urged the authority to “take urgent action” and write to his office “setting out the steps you intend to take to improve all aspects of your complaint handling in the current year”.In an annual review letter sent to the council on 20th July, ombudsman Michael King urged the authority to “take urgent action” and write to his office “setting out the steps you intend to take to improve all aspects of your complaint handling in the current year”.

The ombudsman issued two public reports about the council during the year ending 31st March. The first concerned delays in providing housing adaptations for a disabled child, which caused “significant distress and inconvenience to the whole family”.The ombudsman issued two public reports about the council during the year ending 31st March. The first concerned delays in providing housing adaptations for a disabled child, which caused “significant distress and inconvenience to the whole family”.

Although the council eventually accepted the ombudsman’s findings, Michael wrote that a “significant delay” in responding to his organisation’s initial enquiries “meant the case had to be effectively re-investigated”.Although the council eventually accepted the ombudsman’s findings, Michael wrote that a “significant delay” in responding to his organisation’s initial enquiries “meant the case had to be effectively re-investigated”.

The second report criticised the council’s handling of the possible purchase of a home related to the development of the former Cranwood House care home in Muswell Hill.The second report criticised the council’s handling of the possible purchase of a home related to the development of the former Cranwood House care home in Muswell Hill.

The ombudsman wrote that it was “unsatisfactory” that the council was unable or unwilling to provide information on negotiations and contact with the neighbouring property owner, although he was satisfied by the action the authority had taken to reconsider the matter.The ombudsman wrote that it was “unsatisfactory” that the council was unable or unwilling to provide information on negotiations and contact with the neighbouring property owner, although he was satisfied by the action the authority had taken to reconsider the matter.

In his letter, he added that in a separate case the council had failed to comply with his organisation's recommendations, while in seven further cases it delayed taking action to make up for its failings, including issuing late apologies and making late payments.In his letter, he added that in a separate case the council had failed to comply with his organisation's recommendations, while in seven further cases it delayed taking action to make up for its failings, including issuing late apologies and making late payments.

Michael wrote: “This is likely to further frustrate complainants and could undermine confidence in the council. There were also delays in implementing service improvement recommendations, leaving the council at risk of repeated failings when the issues identified remain unaddressed.”Michael wrote: “This is likely to further frustrate complainants and could undermine confidence in the council. There were also delays in implementing service improvement recommendations, leaving the council at risk of repeated failings when the issues identified remain unaddressed.”

Andy Donald, the council's chief executive, said: “We will absolutely learn lessons from the Local Government Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations and have taken steps to fix them.Andy Donald, the council's chief executive, said: “We will absolutely learn lessons from the Local Government Ombudsman’s findings and recommendations and have taken steps to fix them.

“I expect the whole organisation to deliver services to the highest standards for our residents.“I expect the whole organisation to deliver services to the highest standards for our residents.

“It is essential that we get things right. If mistakes are made, I am clear that our organisation must acknowledge, learn, and take the right course of action.”“It is essential that we get things right. If mistakes are made, I am clear that our organisation must acknowledge, learn, and take the right course of action.”