Local Government OmbudsmanNotice ID:
Local Government Ombudsman: Maladministration by Isle of Wight Council
In January 2014 the Local Government Ombudsman issued a report finding there was maladministration by Isle of Wight Council (when it offered the complainant a property which was too small for his family's needs and failed to advise him in writing of his right to request a review of the suitability of the property). This caused the complainant an injustice. To remedy the injustice the Ombudsman recommended that the Council: provide guidance to its officers about overcrowding rules; elevate the complainant's priority to the highest category (Band 1) to ensure he was rehoused as quickly as possible; and pay him £1000 in recognition of the distress and frustration he and his family suffered by living in unsuitable accommodation for over two years longer than necessary and for his time and
trouble in pursuing the complaint.
The Report was considered by the Council's Cabinet. The Council rejected the Ombudsman's
recommendation for increased priority on the ground this would not be lawful under its allocations
policy. It also rejected the recommendation to pay the complainant £1000 and offered £250 instead. It said that, in reaching this decision, it was guided by the Ombudsman's recommendations in other
cases where a Council had failed to notify a household of the action it could take to challenge a homelessness decision.
The Ombudsman accepted the Council's reasoning for not awarding the complainant's family "Band 1" priority, but considered the Council's rejection of the proposal as to financial remedy unacceptable. The recommendation was made in accordance with the Ombudsman's general approach in
such matters and, if anything, was at the lower end of the scale. The analogy with compensation recommended in another case was not appropriate.
The Ombudsman therefore issued a further report, maintaining her view that it was appropriate for the Council to pay the complainant the sum of £1000.
The Council considered the Ombudsman's further report in December 2014, but again rejected
the recommendation. The Council said it had relied on the housing association which procured the
property to provide accommodation of a suitable size: While it accepted the housing association was acting on its behalf, once the Council became aware of the mistake it took immediate steps to remedy the situation by: reassessing the family's needs; raising their banding on the housing register to effect an early move; and seeking to identify alternative accommodation from all available resources. But, it
was unable to rehouse the family sooner because of the size of the accommodation they needed due
to an increase in the family's size since their original move. As the Council took action to remedy the situation immediately, it does not agree that the family's distress could be deemed "severe or prolonged" as defined in the Ombudsman's published guidance. The Council maintained £1000 was excessive and £250 was a more appropriate payment.
The Ombudsman is not satisfied with the reasons for the Council's further response. It is accepted
that the Council took action to rehouse the family in suitable housing as soon as it became aware
of the situation and that it was difficult to rehouse them sooner due to the increase in the size of the family. However, as a direct result of the Council's fault, the complainant's family had to live
in inadequate housing for over two years. Their injustice was thus severe and prolonged. In a case
where no other remedial action can be taken to remedy an injustice, it is the Ombudsman's practice to seek a financial remedy to recognise the injustice. That was the situation in this case. The Council has failed to recognise the need to properly recompense the complainant's family for their severe and prolonged distress. The Ombudsman finds the Council's failure to comply with her recommendation to be unjustified.
The Ombudsman has noted that the family concerned have now been housed in suitable accommodation.
5 February 2015
Copies of report ref: 12 001 189 can be obtained from the Local Government Ombudsman at:
The Local Government Ombudsman
PO Box 4771, Coventry CV4 0EH