Michael Gove slams council after four housing cases of ‘serious service failure’

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

The Government has slammed a council after it wrongly accused a man of vandalising his own kitchen.

The incident was one of four cases of serious service failure involving Southwark council identified by social landlord regulator the Housing Ombudsman [HO] in reports published in May and July.

The unnamed man won £1,000 from the council after the HO found the council had refused to let him move house over the false allegations.

Housing secretary Michael Gove said he was “appalled” to hear about the council’s failures in the cases, adding that he was concerned about the level of service the council was giving residents.

In a letter to town hall boss Althea Loderick dated September 4, Mr Gove wrote: “Your response to these complaints fell well below the standard your residents should expect.

“To have four separate judgements published about your service failures gives cause for concern about the quality of service that you are providing.

“I expect these necessary improvements to make a difference to the service you deliver. You must treat all tenants with respect and dignity. I will be taking a personal interest in how your organisation delivers its responsibilities.”

In another case highlighted in the letter, the council left a pregnant mum and her young child without heating for six months because of delays in handling her complaint.

Mr Gove said the council’s response to her situation was “wholly unacceptable,” adding that he was “very disappointed to hear about the lack of support provided” to the woman.

A third incident saw the council fail to deal with a worsening leak in a family’s home for 11 months.

The leak led to damp and mould problems in several rooms of their property and caused distress to their children who suffered from eczema and allergies.

Meanwhile, the council refused the family’s pleas for rehousing and compensation.

In a fourth case, Southwark took three years to send a leaseholder details of a service charge bill after it completed works on a man’s property.

The HO branded the delay “completely unacceptable” in a report from July, and ordered the council to pay him £900 in compensation.

Mr Gove’s letter is the third he has sent this year to Labour-led South London councils, attacking them for failures identified by the HO.

Last month, Mr Gove accused neighbouring Lambeth council of having “failed your residents yet again” in a letter highlighting recent rulings against it by the HO.

The letter came five months after another one penned by Mr Gove in March, where he criticised Lambeth for its “persistent failure to provide even the most basic level of decency” to residents.

Southwark council has been contacted for comment on the letter.

Pictured top: Housing secretary Michael Gove (Picture: UK Parliament)

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