Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Gove weighs in after report blasts Hammersmith and Fulham for ‘systemic’ housing failures

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has written to Hammersmith and Fulham council setting out ‘grave concerns’ following a damning report by the Ombudsman.

Mr Gove wrote that the local authority’s approach to repairs and complaint handling documented in the review was ‘unacceptable’, and requested the council’s chief executive, Sharon Lea, meet with the minister for social housing to discuss next steps.

A Hammersmith and Fulham spokesman said: “We look forward to meeting at the earliest possibility.”

Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway launched his investigation into the Labour-led council in May 2023 over concerns of ‘systemic failure’.

In his report, published in February and which assessed cases determined between May 29 2023 and September 29 2023, Mr Blakeway recorded a total of 72 maladministration findings across 33 cases, at a maladministration rate of 88 per cent.

In one instance, an elderly woman with health issues had damp and mould in her home and it took two years to resolve. Her complaints then took 16 months to progress through the council’s internal process. The woman was eventually paid £3,300 in compensation.

In his report, Mr Blakeway listed a number of recommendations for the council, including creating a clearer process for dealing with repairs, and reviewing its corporate complaints policy.

Commenting on the report following its publication, Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, leader of the Conservative opposition, said: “It is thanks to the Ombudsman becoming involved that the council has been forced to deal with our tenants feeling unsafe in their homes due to failures of repairs and appalling mismanagement.

“Residents have suffered and the council has been rightly blamed by the Ombudsman. This council claims to be compassionate when it is clear they’re not.”

In Mr Gove’s letter, dated March 22, the Housing Secretary wrote: “The effect of your failings on your residents cannot be underestimated, together with the distress and frustration they must have suffered. Many were left feeling unsafe in their own homes, fearful not only for their safety, but that of their children.

“You failed to recognise or understand the detrimental impact ongoing issues had on both the mental and physical wellbeing of your residents. You failed to consider the impact of not only poor-quality repairs, but extensive delays, inadequate responses, and broken promises, particularly on vulnerable residents.”

Noting the council has accepted the findings, is working to put them right and has apologised and compensated residents, Mr Gove added he understands the Ombudsman has brought the report to the Regulator for Social Housing to determine whether standards had been breached.

“My officials will monitor developments,” he added. “We cannot allow this wholly unacceptable situation to recur.”

Writing on X (formerly Twitter), the Conservative Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg hands commented: “Labour H&F council has been an appalling landlord to its social housing tenants. Fulham deserves better.”

Pictured top: Michael Gove (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Chatham House)



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