The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has ruled in favour of a family from one from the land-locked properties on Undercliff Drive who’d lodged a complaint against the Isle of Wight council (IWC).
The family – some of whom live with long term medical conditions – said the Council’s actions and delays following the landslip that took place in February 2014, “caused significant disruption to their lives, financial loss, and stress”.
Complaint upheld by LGO
The complaint argued that the Council, as well as its contractors (Island Roads), were at fault because the road scheme that was designed was not suitable and that starting work in winter increased the risks of the road failing.
It also stated that IWC and Island Roads had “failed to properly consult affected residents or take timely and effective steps to reinstate access to homes, including theirs, affected by the road failure”.
The complaint was upheld on 24th January 2017. The family are unable to comment due to recommendations still being carried out.
LGO: IWC “disingenuous”
The Ombudsman said they had “seen no persuasive evidence to show it [IWC] properly planned and adequately managed the situation”.
The IWC is also accused of being “disingenuous”, the Ombudsman stating,
“The Council suggests it is, and remains, the Family’s choice not to occupy their home. I find this disingenuous given its actions immediately after the Landslip. The Council, including in writing, made clear Householders should leave their homes. And, emergency services and army personnel helped with the evacuation.”
Residents kept in the dark
The LGO report goes on to say it was reasonable to expect the IWC to “consider householders’ individual needs” and to ensure it kept them “adequately supported and updated about the road after the evacuation”.
The Ombudsman said they could find no evidence the IWC consulted with those living in the land-locked properties when considering proposals for dealing with the road failure.
It goes on to suggest the residents were given no more information that that issued in published statements, ie. press releases and statements to the media.
A “lack of effective liaison and project planning”
The Ombudsman also found the IWC’s response to the road failure “disjointed and reactive” and stated the continuing ground movements in the area “effectively masked avoidable delays arising from a lack of effective liaison and project planning”.
Overall, the Ombudsman said, they could not find evidence that IWC and Island Roads dealt with the road failure diligently, or as a priority.
Council fell below acceptable standards
In the Ombudsman’s summary it concluded,
Overall and on balance, the Council fell below acceptable standards both in delivering a timely and suitable solution to the Road failure; and in supporting Householders.
Given the Family were evacuated from their home, and faced continuing uncertainty about their future while the Road failure remained unresolved, this caused them substantive injustice.
In recognition of the “poor customer service provided to the Family that added to their inevitable distress and inconvenience of living away from home”, the IWC was recommended to pay the family £5,000 compensation.
The IWC was also recommended to pay the family’s reasonable costs in putting their home back into a habitable condition.
Other recommendations are set out in paragraphs 65 to 70 and 73 to 76 of the LGO report.
A matter for the courts
In relation to the design and construction of the road – for which the IWC does not accept there was negligence or procedural error – the LGO found the central issues concern legal and contractual liabilities and responsibilities.
They suggest “the courts are best placed to decide whether those involved with the original scheme acted properly or were reckless and negligent”.
Full details of the findings and recommendations can be found on the LGO’s Website.
OnTheWight have published over 120 articles on the Undercliff Drive saga. Flick back through the archive to read the background.