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A wider investigation launched!

Ombudsman launches wider investigation into Hammersmith and Fulham Council after ongoing failures.
Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway

The Housing Ombudsman has used its powers to launch a wider investigation into the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to see if shortcomings in the landlord’s handling of complaints, as well as its handling of repair reports, are indicative of wider failure.

Using powers within the Ombudsman’s Scheme, it will produce a learning report for the landlord based on investigations into individual complaints and wider engagement and make recommendations for service improvement.

The Ombudsman has 13 open cases that have been assessed as high or medium risk, as well as making 12 findings of severe maladministration across five cases since 1 April 2022.

The Ombudsman has been monitoring incoming complaints and is concerned about reports of delays to repairs and poor communication.

Richard Blakeway, Housing Ombudsman, said: “After repeated failures in the past year by this landlord, we’ve seen a high number of cases concerning the landlord identified as high or medium risk.

“Under the circumstances, I’ve asked my team to expedite these investigations.

“Other cases with us concern similar issues and may indicate a repeated failing. Conducting a further investigation, using our systemic powers under paragraph 49 of the Scheme to identify areas for the landlord to learn and improve, is therefore required.

“Following our investigation, we will publish a learning report highlighting any issues we have identified in the cases investigated and make recommendations to the landlord where appropriate.”

Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Strategic Director of Economy, Jon Pickstone, said: “We fully recognise the historic failings in our handling of complaints and repairs in our ageing housing stock.

“The severe maladministration findings referenced by the Ombudsman relate to a period when one of our three major contractors exited abruptly, the impact of which was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

“We have apologised unreservedly to those affected. We have failed to provide them with services that reflect the high standards that we expect and they deserve. We have learned lessons from every case and implemented changes as a result. Our residents’ homes should be safe, secure and fit for purpose.

“That is why we are continuing to upgrade our housing repairs service, including successfully exiting an underfunded 10-year maintenance contract in 2019. We have now increased funding for repairs to £30m annually, established a dedicated repairs taskforce, appointed a new council housing senior management team and hired additional contractors to undertake works more quickly and effectively in a ‘right first time’ approach.

“We are also investing more than £600million to radically improve our council homes over the next twelve years. It is the biggest council homes retrofit and refurbishment plan in the borough’s history. This is in addition to our commitment to build more than 3,000 new and much-needed affordable homes over the next four years.

“We will co-operate fully with the Ombudsman’s investigation and look forward to receiving its report. We will study it closely and act on its recommendations.”

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