Compensation payouts from Brent Council up by 254 per cent
- Credit: Archant
Compensation payouts from Brent Council have surged by 254 per cent following a string of blunders including a homeless family with young children being forced to sleep rough in a car.
Last year the town hall paid out a total of £78,001.41 for serious failings according to a damning report submitted to the council’s scrutiny committee earlier this month.
This sum is up from £22,000 the previous year.
Between April 2014 and March this year, errors relating to accommodation accounted for 54pc of the total housing complaints received, with the report highlighting the family being forced to live in a car after housing offered to them by the council was unfit for habitation.
The report said council officers told the family they had made themselves “intentionally homeless” and failed to inform them of their right to appeal the decision or refer the children on to children’s services, resulting in the family sleeping rough in a car for “a number of days”.
Another homeless family received a payout of £350 after they were forced to stay in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation for four months, despite a legal cap on homeless families being housed in emergency accommodation for a maximum of six weeks.
The council also found it had “inadequate procedures” in place after one family complained that they were not told their booking for an emergency bed and breakfast had been terminated, leaving them less than 45 minutes notice to pack up their possessions and leave.
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The report shows 61 residents received payouts totalling £38,726 for ‘first stage’ complaints (those resolved without challenge from the council) and a further £39,274 for 67 contested ‘final stage’ complaints, some of which were decided by a ruling from the government ombudsman.
It also states that a complaint qualifies for a payout where: “upon investigation it is found that the council’s incorrect actions or failure to act or delay in acting has resulted in the person being seriously affected.”
Officers receieved a total of 1,898 complaints from disgruntled residents last year, with 91 pc resolved at the “first stage” of the complaints process.
Responding to the accommodation cases, a spokesman for Brent Council said: “We accept that we made a series of human errors, and apologised. Equally as importantly, we identified how this happened, and introduced both training and new systems to avoid it happening again.”
“Brent, like councils from across London, is up against it in meeting the national target for temporary accommodation simply because of the chronic shortage of affordable homes in the capital. This has been made even more challenging by the government’s cap on housing benefit.
“This means that occasionally we do keep families in such accommodation for longer than this target time.”
The council also said the dramatic rise in compensation payouts was due to an exceptionally low payout of £22,000 recorded the year before.
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