Norwich City Council told it must pay part of cost to rebuild woman’s wall, after complaint to watchdog

Photo: Nick Butcher.

Photo: Nick Butcher. - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

A watchdog has criticised Norwich City Council for failing to tackle a drainage issue which damaged a householder's wall, with City Hall told it must cover half the costs of getting the wall rebuilt.

The Local Government Ombudsman - which deals with complaints about councils - said City Hall had not dealt with the issue, which the complainant said had left the home she rented out inhabitable, properly.

The woman who complained, who is not named in the ombudsman report, first complained to the ombudsman in 2014, following an impasse with the council over a blocked gulley. She said pooling water caused by that had damaged a wall at the home.

The council said, at the time, it would not repair the highway until the woman repaired her wall. But the woman could not find a builder to do the work while the drainage problem remained outstanding.

The ombudsman recommended the council meet the woman to agree to work needed, arrange for quotes from contractors to carry out work to both the wall and the gulley, and agree how the cost of the works would be split between them.

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Officers told the woman she would need to get technical plans for the work drawn up and she spent nearly £2,000 on the plans.

A civil engineer she contracted to examine the situation confirmed the drainage issue had been partly to blame for the damage to her wall. She emailed details to the council but received no reply.

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The woman complained for a second time to the ombudsman, as by 2016 the situation remained unresolved. She said her tenants had moved out in 2015 and the home was now uninhabitable.

The ombudsman investigated and has ruled there was fault by the council which caused injustice, although she said there was no evidence the home had become uninhabitable as a result of the issue with the wall.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: 'I am issuing this report as Norwich City Council has not implemented the remedy it agreed with me in 2015. If a council fails to act on one of our recommendations, it is our job to publicly hold them to account.

'Members of the public can only have confidence in their local authorities' integrity if they act in accordance with their promises.

'I now urge Norwich council to carry out my further recommendations within the timescales agreed and trust the matter with the wall and with the highway will be resolved.'

To remedy the complaint, Norwich City Council has agreed to get a quote from its preferred contractor and share it with the homeowner.

It will ensure the work, including fixing the drainage issue, is completed within three months and meet half the cost of the work to rebuild the woman's wall.

It will also meet half of the reasonable costs the woman incurred for civil engineers to draw up the specification for the wall repair and pay her £250 in recognition of the time and trouble she went to in pursuing the complaint.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council: 'We fully accept the ombudsman's findings and will carry out the recommendations as requested. It is regrettable, although fortunately very rare, that the ombudsman has found against the council in this case.'

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