Council complaints revealed in Worcestershire

Council complaints revealed in Worcestershire

Council complaints revealed in Worcestershire

First published in News Malvern Gazette: Tom Edwards Exclusive by , Political Reporter

AN INDEPENDENT watchdog has investigated complaints against Worcestershire councils nearly 100 times over the last year, it has emerged.

A new report reveals how thousands of pounds in compensation has been paid out to disgruntled members of the public after the Local Government Ombudsman stepped in.

Your Worcester News can reveal:

- Over the last year 99 complaints have been investigated and 19 of them led to some sort of action being taken

- 64 of those complaints were against Worcestershire County Council of which 14 were upheld

- Wychavon District Council was told to pay a man £4,500 after he was kicked out of his house when he was unable to keep up with rent payments after being given incorrect advice from benefits officers

- The county council paid one grandfather £1,000 after failing to follow up his phone call saying three young children could be at risk from an abusive father for seven weeks

- Other complaints upheld included failings to keep proper records of school admission appeals, and £500 handed to a woman who was not told about charges for respite care

In total, across 2013/14 one complaint was upheld against Worcester City Council, two against Malvern Hills District Council and two against Wychavon District Council, on top of the 14 against County Hall.

One of the Wychavon cases included an unidentified, jobless man who rented a house and was on benefits.

He got divorced and was given a £25,000 settlement, and enquired about whether it would change the amount of benefits he got.

After getting wrong advice from housing officers, his handouts were withdrawn and as a result he lost his home and had to pack up and stay at his parent's house.

He said as a result of that, it affected contact with his daughters and he often resorted to sleeping on the floor of his parent's property so they could stay over.

The council ended up paying him £4,500 for the problems it caused him and scrapped a plan to pursue £3,345 wrongly paid in benefit overpayments dating back to 2010.

The most notorious case to be upheld against Worcestershire County Council over the last year was the death of a frail 70-year-old man, as we first reported back in January this year.

The pensioner died after moving to a cheaper, less suitable care home despite an advance assessment warning it would be "detrimental" to his health.

The man, who cannot be named, had a history of dementia, heart problems, diabetes, strokes and epilepsy and died in January 2012.

After his death it emerged that a safeguarding investigation was never completed despite complaints from the family, which was handed £1,500.

A spokesman for the county council said: "We are a large people-based organisation and sometimes, through human error, mistakes are made.

"What is important is that when we do fall below our standards we hold our hands up, apologise and make necessary changes so it doesn't happen again."

Vic Allison, deputy managing Director at Wychavon District Council, said: “Compared to the amount of customers we deal with each year and the many thousands of business transactions that take place, we have received very few complaints."

The single case upheld against Worcester City Council has not been made public, but will be later in the year once the report is complete.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: "It is important the public has a clear route to redress when things go wrong."

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