LAMBETH PAID OUT MORE THAN £10 MILLION ON DISREPAIR CLAIMS IN PAST FIVE YEARS (but claim they don’t have the money to repair certain estates)
Lambeth council have paid out more than £10 million over the last five years on disrepair claims – despite saying they have no money to repair certain council estates.
The figures were revealed by Green party Cllr Scott Ainslie at the council’s annual budget meeting.
“Just last week we learned that Lambeth has the second highest compensation bill for disrepair claims in the whole of the UK having paid out nearly £11 million in the last five years” he said.
The figures were uncovered following a Freedom of Information request from BBC TV Leeds.
“So bad is the situation that the council saw fit to increase its litigation provision last year by an additional £1 million” Cllr Ainslie told the council’s budget meeting.
It was hard to see how this budget reconciles with the borough plan which included ‘Strong and Sustainable Neighbourhoods’ – when you starve estates like Cressingham of repairs to prop up a risky bid to enter the property market facing costly legal challenges
On other areas of the budget Cllr Ainslie said: “Lots of ideas that haven’t been thought through that have the potential to end up costing more money rather than saving it.
“Instead of spending yet another million pounds on updating the financial software system you should get the basics right and make sure that the figures going into the system are robust in the first place.
“By its own admission, the council’s governance statement for 2015/16 stated ‘We found significant deficiencies in the control framework for key areas of the housing management function.’
“By the council’s own admission when the mechanical and electrical works were eventually re-tendered last year the report states ‘Returned tenders indicate a saving of at least five per cent over final invoices issued for similar works in 2012/13’.
“That’s a million pounds a year that you are openly admitting you could have saved over the last four years. “How many more poorly run contracts like this are there out there?
“The council should put right its mismanagement of contracts and its own workforce rather than come up with ridiculous ideas like turning cherished public libraries into gyms that no-body wants.
“The external auditor’s report last year (7) stated: ‘We have concluded that the authority has not made proper arrangements to ensure it took informed decisions and deployed resources to achieve planned and sustainable outcomes for taxpayers and local people.’
“At the October 2015 cabinet meeting and at the subsequent call-in that I made, the concern was raised about the writing of a blank cheque for the cabinet member’s housing SPV (special purpose vehicle) and we were promised by the lead officer that ‘The cost of the SPV would be put forward in a future business plan.’
“A year and half later and we have still not seen the promised business plan. “Yet we are being asked to sign off a budget with no visibility of how much money is being used from the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) to prop up this SPV.
- BBC News website reported that compensation payouts to people living in damp and damaged council houses in England have reached more than £35m in the past five years.Nearly 11,000 disrepair claims have been brought against councils since 2011/12, according to figures obtained by the BBC. 75 local authorities disclosed they paid out £35.4m in total to deal with disrepair claims.
Southwark and Lambeth councils paid out the most in compensation and legal costs – about £10.5m each. The highest amount outside London was Leeds with more than £4.5m in payouts.
Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, said: “The high volume of compensation claims relates to the large number of properties Southwark council manages. “We are the largest local authority social landlord in London with around 55,000 properties. We have a robust complaints procedure and compensation policy which is flexible enough to respond to individual cases as they arise. Our focus on customer service in recent times has seen a significant reduction in the average time to close disrepair cases.”
Southwark council say they have invested around £450m into bringing homes up to a decent standard and we have hit our target of 90% decent homes.
Lambeth council have been asked for a comment but so far have (predictably) failed to reply.