South London boroughs among most complained about in the UK

By Charlie Parry

South London boroughs are some of the most complained about areas in the UK, according to data released by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Lambeth and Croydon were two of the 10 worst town halls for being reported to the ombudsman in the past year, while Southwark, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham were in the top 40.

The South London borough that the watchdog received the most enquiries about was Lambeth.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) received 222 complaints about them – the fifth highest out of 371 authorities.

In one Lambeth case, the LGO said: “Mr C approached the council as homeless. The council failed to respond to his initial correspondence and then sent him to another council rather than properly assessing his information and helping him.

“The council accommodated him over a week later, but he had been street homeless in that time and approached social services to get help. The council will apologise, pay £300 and review its procedures.”

In Croydon, “The Ombudsman found fault by the council and trust with regards to the care and support they provided to a woman with ongoing health needs following her discharge from hospital.

“The council and trust will apologise to the woman’s daughter and pay a financial remedy in recognition of the impact of these events on her.”

Across all South London boroughs, housing was the biggest problem, with the ombudsman receiving 265 complaints about it.

Education and children’s services, adult social care, and benefits and tax were also common areas mentioned.

The data also included information on how many complaints were dropped or upheld, how they were dealt with, and whether or not the ombudsman had to recommend improvements to the authority.

Greenwich and Southwark had the highest rate of upheld complaints, with the ombudsman finding fault in their actions 83 per cent of the time.

Although Lambeth had one of the highest number of complaints, only 65 per cent of them were upheld, with many closed after an initial inquiry.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “While we are seeing more and more complex cases beset by systemic problems, we are also increasingly working with councils to identify the root of those problems and making recommendations to improve the underlying policies and procedures causing them.

“These service improvements highlight the power one single complaint can have – when dealt with properly – to prevent problems reoccurring and improve services for others.”

A Lambeth council spokesman said: “The LGO provides a really important function in resolving often serious issues for residents.

“However, residents should follow the council’s own complaints procedure in the first instance, where we satisfactorily resolve the vast majority of all issues brought to us.

“Having a higher population compared to many other London boroughs will obviously put us towards to the top of tables like this.

“But it should be noted that only 37 – or 17 per cent – of the 222 complaints resulted in an investigation, and 24 of these were upheld. This is a reduction in the numbers for last year.

A spokeswoman for Greenwich council said: “We take all complaints seriously and view them as an opportunity to improve our services. We always attempt to resolve complaints through our complaints procedure and the majority are resolved this way.”

A spokesman for Croydon council said: “With a population bigger than many cities’ nationwide, Croydon handles thousands of resident queries and issues each year and we work hard to ensure that these are resolved so residents do not feel the need to make a formal complaint.”

Pictured top: Lambeth Town Hall


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