To report any issues with the information below please email

Agenda and minutes

Venue: Council Chamber Council Offices Market Street Newbury. View directions

Contact: Gordon Oliver 


No. Item


Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 306 KB

To remind Members of the need to record the existence and nature of any personal, disclosable pecuniary or other registrable interests in items on the agenda, in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct.


Councillor Howard Woollaston declared an interest in Agenda Item 3 by virtue of the fact that he had previously been the Executive Portfolio Holder for Housing, but this did not coincide with the period when the relevant housing application had been determined. He reported that, as his interest was personal but not prejudicial, he would remain to take part in the debate and vote on the matter.


Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Report Decision Review pdf icon PDF 248 KB

Purpose: To provide details on the recent case which was reviewed by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).  Following investigations, the LGSCO upheld their decision and found there to have been maladministration and injustice in relation to how a homelessness application was managed in December 2020.  As part of the sanctions which have been imposed by LGSCO the Council are required to consider the Ombudsman’s report at a decision making body made up of elected members.

Additional documents:


Nick Caprara (Service Lead – Housing) presented the report on the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Report Decision Review (Agenda Item 3).

Eric Owens (Service Director – Development and Regulation) made the following comments:

·       The situation was hugely regrettable.

·       Mitigation had been put in place and he was confident that the risk of a future incident happening again would be minimised.

The following points were raised in the debate:

·       Members asked if other clients could have suffered a similar experience, but had not registered formal complaints. Officers felt this would be unlikely – they had analysed their data, looking for presentations involving both homelessness and domestic abuse, and were comfortable that both their own processes and the Council’s complaints process were robust.

·       Clarification was sought as to what changes had been made to processes by the Housing Service. It was explained that as part of the Service Improvement Plan, a fundamental review of the training programme had been carried out. All of the documentation that homelessness prevention relief officers used had been reassessed. All cases that had been to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in the last three years had been discussed with front line staff to ensure that lessons were learned, even when the Council was not found to be at fault. This helped to improve the customer experience. On the back of this case, further detailed training had been carried out with front line staff and documentation had been discussed with teams and individuals. As such, officers were comfortable that there should not be a repeat incident in future.

·       A question was asked about any open actions still to be implemented in response to lessons learned from this case. It was confirmed that there were no outstanding actions.

·       Members noted that a client had been failed while at their lowest ebb and asked if this was due to the failure of an individual officer, a lack of understanding of the legislation by the wider team. Officers suggested that it would be unfair to blame an individual, but lessons had been learned. What should have happened was that West Berkshire Council should have opened the homelessness case, rather than leaving it to another local authority.

·       The question regarding whether the fault was with the individual or the wider team was repeated. It was confirmed that the process was the issue. The service had been in the process of implementing a Service Improvement Plan and the training and support for staff had not been in place when this application had been made.

·       Members acknowledged that not only had the service been going through a period of change, but there had been a lack of resources within the team. Clarification was sought as to whether this situation could be repeated. Officers explained that the service had experienced a significant churn in staff and had been running with a 40% reduction in front line staff. The current situation was much better, with just one fixed term vacancy in the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.