Sutton Council has agreed to apologise to a resident over the management of a homeless shelter near her home following ‘poor’ communication.

A report released by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO) on May 31 ruled the authority had properly investigated the complaints.

However, communication with the resident – only known as Ms B – was deemed unsatisfactory while failing to maintain the shelter's garden in line with its management handbook.

In its conclusion, the report said: “The council appropriately investigated Ms B’s enforcement complaints and where there is no evidence of fault the ombudsman [LGO] will not challenge the council’s professional judgement.

“But the council’s communication with Ms B has been poor. It also failed to maintain a homeless hostel garden in line with its handbook.

“This has caused Ms B some frustration, distress and time and trouble which the council has agreed to remedy.”

Planning permission was granted for a homeless hostel near Ms B’s home in December 2014 before the management company involved sent its handbook to the council in May 2015.

The woman lodged her complaint a year later, in May 2016, highlighting issues over a ‘lack of privacy and overlooking’ into her property.

She also complained about poor maintenance of the hostel’s garden, smoking, lighting and ‘lack of compliance’ with planning permission.

The management company involved told the council it would install frosting on the windows of the communal areas, as well as softer lighting, to help resolve the issues.

However, while a list of agreed actions were sent to Ms B, she raised complaints about issues again that October.

In its analysis, the LGO report added: “I appreciate the issues that Ms B is experiencing with the hostel and lack of privacy.

“But the approved planning permission did not specify that there needed to be obscured glazing between the hostel and Ms B’s address.

“Therefore, the council was under no requirement to install frosting or net curtains on the windows.

“I appreciate that Ms B believes that different planning conditions should have been put in place to protect her privacy, but as I have set out at the end of this statement, I have not investigated the council’s planning permission in this investigation.”

Continuing on, the LGO cited concerns over the ‘consistency’ of Sutton Council’s communication with her.

Although the resident was told in July 2016 fencing would be put up along the perimeter, and a professional gardener would be employed, some of this didn’t happen until the end of 2016.

It said: “It [the council] should have been clearer in its communication with Ms B about her complaints and the action plans that it was taken.

“Failure to do so has caused her additional frustration and time and trouble chasing responses.”

Sutton Council agreed to apologise to Ms B within six weeks of the final decision, on February 27, and pay her £150.

It has also been agreed for the authority to provide a report to the ombudsman that the garden maintenance issue has been addressed and action to prevent future reoccurrences.

A council spokesman told Sutton Guardian on June 6 that the authority accepts the LGO’s findings and procedures are currently under review.

To see the report, click here.