Officials quizzed after ombudsman criticises council over unsuitable home for mother and son

Councillors have quizzed officials about a woman and her son who were placed in an unsuitable home.

The case became the subject of an ombudsman’s report which criticised the actions of Brighton and Hove City Council’s housing department for failing the family.

Officers were asked about the nature of emergency and temporary housing and the lack of a suitable place after the woman and her son were left in an unsuitable flat.

Councillor Joe Miller, who chairs the council’s Audit and Standards Committee, asked about the availability of other rental accommodation as he was aware that a short-term bed and breakfast was not suitable for this family.

The Conservative councillor said: “It’s not ideal but wasn’t there a more suitable Airbnb or another rental which could have been used to avoid an injustice like this.”

The local government ombudsman found that the woman, referred to Miss X, was caused injustice by being left in the out-of-area ex-council flat for more than two months with her autistic son.

They were threatened by neighbours in the block but the council denied there were any problems with noise, which would make the flat unsuitable for the son.

Despite one council officer flagging loud music and banging from a neighbouring flat, the officer responsible for leasing it played this down.

However, after the pair moved there in July 2016, the council officer who viewed it discovered a nine-year history of anti-social behaviour and three ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) issued to the neighbour.

Even though the council agreed she had to move, there was no housing available.

It was only when her neighbour threatened to stab her and kill her son that Miss X was moved to a new home.

The committee heard how the council no longer works with the landlord of the property in question.

Councillor Joe Miller

Short-term places are booked in the Premier Inn and other hotels, the committee was told, but this option was not suitable for Miss X and her son.

Labour councillor Penny Gilbey said that some people felt under pressure to take unsuitable properties.

She said: “When people look at a property that is identified as not suitable by a housing officer, then told if they don’t take it the council do not have any duty to house them, they feel they have no other option.”

While a home may be considered unsuitable for the long term, it can be considered suitable in the short term, she was told.

A housing official said: “What we should have done when the officer said it was not suitable was contacted the local authority who had the lease on that property to investigate further.”

Councillors formally accepted the ombudsman’s recommendations to

  • Apologise to Miss X
  • Pay £750 to recognise the injustice caused by its decision to leave her in the unsuitable temporary accommodation
  • Pay £100 for storage charges
  • Pay £150 to recognise the time and trouble caused by the delay
  • The council is also required to write back to the ombudsman to explain what it is doing to solve the problems
  1. derry dave Reply

    While the housing dept has a tough job to do, there is a culture among a significant number of people working for them which is troubling.

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