Barking and Dagenham Council has received a scathing letter from government minister Michael Gove after "mishandling" a housing complaint. 

In a list published by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the council was one of more than twenty London councils and housing associations flagged for "severe maladministration cases" in findings from the Housing Ombudsman.

It comes after the ombudsman discovered a family of six in the borough were forced to live with damp and mould for two-and-a-half years, due to what the department described "unacceptable delays to repairs". 

The lengthy ordeal saw failed communications with the landlord, the ombudsman found, a dispute over the necessity of works, and the issues returning after an inefficient repair to two rooms. 

Barking and Dagenham Post: Michael GoveMichael Gove (Image: PA)

The family, known to suffer with health including asthma who lived with a one-year-old, were left with no choice but to move into a single room in the house.

Mr Gove contacted the council directly in September in a now published letter. 

Mr Gove said: "Your mishandling of their complaint, understandably caused the family distress, inconvenience, and put their health at risk. 

"[...] You have failed your residents". 

The council has extended their apologies to the family in response to the 'Name & Shame' letter. 

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A council spokesperson said: "The council have recognised the failings in this case and the impact that this would have had on the family and the ability to enjoy their environment and for which we offer our sincere apologies.

“As a council it is important that we take complaints and use these as a basis to improve services for our residents, as such we have taken this complaint and determined several learning outcomes to improve the services which we offer all residents."

The council says its new improvements are as follows:

  • Introduced a robust post inspection regime. All work identified on the surveyor's report will need to have been fully completed and signed off.

  • Introduced a new approach to help identify the root cause of problems in properties, using specialist guidance to limit repeated occurrences.

  • Introduced a new compliance team taking a case management approach to suit the needs of the resident/household more effectively

  • Embedded policy and standard procedures to reduce miscommunication across services.