Basildon Council will now pay complainants an increased award of £3,000 up from £1,000 in cases where the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has made findings of maladministration or injustice.
At a staffing and general purposes committee meeting on January 22, Basildon borough councillors carried the decision to implement the increased payments going forward, which will continue to be drawn from existing budgets.
In a report presented to the committee, authored by the council’s monitoring officer, it was stated that the new amount of £3,000 was justified by “two-fold” reasoning. Firstly, the process of a complainant making a claim through to receiving compensation from the administration after LGSCO officers have investigated each case and offered final recommendations ordinarily takes several months.
Increasing the delegated authority to officers to allow them to make payments up to £3,000 aims to quicken the pace of the compensation process, on the basis that ombudsman recommendations of payments “should be made as speedily as possible” once a decision has been reached.
The monitoring officer also took the view that opting to continue referring each case in which a payment of over £1,000 is being made to the committee “would lead to unnecessary delay in settling complaints”.
Any payments of more than £3,000 would therefore “suggest a serious case of maladministration or service failure, and would be right and proper to bring to the committee for consideration”.
Councillor Kevin Blake (Con. Burstead) said the proposal “makes perfect sense”, with the committee unanimously supporting the increase.
The LGSCO will investigate claims of maladministration or injustice within a number of council services, including housing, education, social services and council tax, and will offer recommended remedies which aim to put a complainant back in the position they would have been were it not for the fault.
In the Housing Ombudsman’s annual complaints review for 2022-23, it was revealed that, out of four Essex authorities named as having a maladministration rate of over 50 per cent, Basildon scored the most highly with a maladministration rate of 86.7 per cent.
Complaints were largely attributed to property condition and delays in commencing repairs.