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Islington Council ‘didn’t see coming’ second investigation into complaints handling

A watchdog is investigating how Islington council handles complaints from residents in the second probe of its services announced this winter.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Islington council’s deputy leader Diarmaid Ward who 'did not see coming' second Ombudsman investigation of the winter. Photo: Julia Gregory/LDRS
Islington council’s deputy leader Diarmaid Ward who ‘did not see coming’ second Ombudsman investigation of the winter. Photo: Julia Gregory/LDRS

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is looking at the length of time Islington council takes to deal with complaints.

It comes as the Housing Ombudsman is already looking into how the council handles problems with mould and damp.

Housing staff are now reviewing all their damp and mould casework over the last three years.

Islington council’s deputy leader Diarmaid Ward admitted: “This is not good enough,” when quizzed by fellow councillors at a scrutiny committee about the latest investigation.

He said he did not anticipate the ombudsman’s intervention, telling the policy and performance scrutiny committee: “I did not see it coming”.

However, he said workloads increased since the pandemic and “officers were aware of the backlog.”

“I’ll be blunt, the fact we’ve got this far is a failing.

“If it’s not working, we’ve got to change it,” he said.

He said there are four more staff dealing with residents’ problems to help improve the service.

Residents told the council they were fed up of the delays in response and dealing with problems and the time it took for them to get through on the phone.

Cllr Ward who has responsibility for finance, planning and performance said he was concerned that: “When something festers it does tend to fester for too long.”

The council is asking external experts to look at complaints handling.

Cllr Ward said there needs to be a “deep dive” into the service.

He said “either something has gone badly wrong, or the resident has been fed up with length of time” it has taken to sort out problems if they feel they have to lodge a complaint.

Cllr Gulcin Ozdemir (Lab, Tufnell Park) said she sometimes finds it “difficult” to get casework dealt with and has to escalate it to senior officers.

She said she is concerned for residents who do not take issues to their councillors, given the problems she has experienced.

“We can’t have a system where you go to an officer, you go to a corporate director to sort out problems, said cllr Ward.

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