Ealing Council has been slammed by Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities , Michael Gove MP following The Housing Ombudsman ruling the Labour-run Council guilty of severe maladministration. The verdict came after a resident needed repairs to a leak into their sixth floor flat and they were kept waiting nine months to have it resolved.
In a strongly worded letter sent 16 August 2023 to Ealing Council chief executive Tony Clements which was also copied to Council leader Councillor Peter Mason and MPs Rupa Huq, James Murry and Virendra Sharma, Mr Gove said:
“The resident, who had vulnerabilities, reported a leak they believed was coming from the property above. Despite some repairs having been carried out, two months later the issue was ongoing and again reported by the resident. Six months after this, the issue was still unresolved. The resident escalated her complaint but did not receive a response until nine months later. You only sent a formal response once the Ombudsman had issued a Complaint Handling Failure Order. This was described as ‘inadequate’ and did not cover the issues raised by the resident, who had taken much time and effort to elicit a response. The Ombudsman had to intervene on numerous occasions.”
Mr Gove added: “You have failed your resident. Everyone, particularly those who are vulnerable, should be able to expect to have their complaint taken seriously, and have repairs carried out in reasonable time. I expect you to implement changes as soon as possible and I will continue to take a personal interest in whether these changes make a tangible difference to your residents.”
Speaking to EALING.NEWS, Councillor Gary Malcolm, leader of Ealing Liberal Democrats said: “The Liberal Democrats are seeing a very large number of cases that should have been dealt with quickly but instead people’s lives have been made a misery and also left them and their families with sometimes dangerous living conditions.”
Mr Malcolm added: “Liberal Democrats want to see Labour-run Ealing Council hold their hands up and promise to overhaul the housing repair and complaints services so council tenants get a fair deal.”
The complaint related to a leak which the resident said was coming from the flat above. After reporting the issue, the Council visited both flats and made some repairs, but the resident reported the issue was still ongoing and made a complaint two months later.
Over the next six months, the resident had asked Labour-run Ealing Council for an update but the council failed to provide any updates on the complaint and it took the Ombudsman to intervene for it to provide more information to the resident.
In a statement, the Ombudsman said: “We have found severe maladministration for Ealing Council after a nine-month delay in its complaint handling left repairs outstanding and the resident without redress. We were forced to issue a Complaint Handling Failure Order to get the council to issue a response.”
As a result, the Ombudsman ordered Ealing Council to pay the resident £1,225 in compensation, update its records with vital information about the case and ensure it is compliant with the Complaint Handling Code.
In its response to the Ombudsman, Ealing Council said it had overhauled its complaints handling process and is seeking a new contractor to improve services for residents.
Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “The fact we’ve had to intervene on numerous occasions during this complaint is undeniably unacceptable. The Complaint Handling Code is there to support landlords to deliver an effective complaints procedure. The timescales are clear markers for landlords to ensure residents are listened to and their concerns dealt with promptly.
“As the Complaint Handling Code becomes statutory under the Social Housing Regulation Bill, we will be exercising our powers a lot more in this area.”
Speaking to EALING.NEWS, at the time of the Ombudsmans’ finding, Ealing Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball, the party’s spokesman on housing said: “This catalogue of errors by Labour-led Ealing Council is a shocking litany of failure. Over an eighteen month period the council’s contractors made multiple visits that failed to find the cause of the water leak, failed to properly communicate with the residents, failed to comply with complaint handling rules, attended the wrong flat on one occasion and even created an additional leak. Council tenants have a reasonable expectation that the council will carry out repairs on time and with basic competence. The Council failed woefully to achieve that.”
Councillor Ball added: “This case is sadly not an isolated incident. The Housing Ombudsman issued Ealing Council with four complaint handling failure notices in the last quarter alone, 10% of those it issued to all landlords in the whole country. We as the opposition group demand that the Labour administration seriously overhaul the housing repair and complaints services to give council tenants a fair deal.”