Birmingham MP accuses council housing officials

“Conspiracy to withhold damning evidence from Ombudsman enquiry” claim.

Local MP Roger Godsiff, has accused Birmingham city Housing Officers of deliberately withholding evidence from the Local Government Ombudsman which would have shown their involvement and culpability in what he called “one of the worst cases of maladministration” which he has encountered over 40 years as a Councillor and an MP.

The Local Government Ombudsman today published her report into a complaint against Birmingham City Council, concluding that “the Council has acted with fault” which caused an innocent householder significant injustice, and also failed to carry out its own procedures when authorising a mutual exchange by a Council tenant who had already been prosecuted by the Council for breach of tenancy conditions involving gross anti-social behaviour. The report acknowledges that the Housing Association, if it had known about the background of the tenant in question, would not have accepted the mutual exchange which has caused it major management problems, and has also resulted in the Housing Association spending over £15,000 trying to get the tenant removed from the property.

In a blistering attack on council officials the Hall Green MP claimed that: “What certain officers in the Housing Department did in this particular case was not just incompetent but a wilful deceit, purely in order to dump their problem onto somebody else’s plate. This not only led to years of misery for the next door neighbour and other residents of the road, but also cost the Housing Association a large sum of money in trying to rectify the problem caused by these Council officers.  The people who wilfully conspired to withhold the information about this tenant – which was well known in the Housing Department and Legal Department, which had pursued a prosecution against him for breach of his tenancy conditions when he was a Council tenant – were not junior officers.  Authorisation for a mutual exchange has to be signed by a Senior Housing Officer, but there has been a complete cover-up within the Housing Department. The officers who were responsible for this whole fiasco have been able to evade the consequences of their actions.”

“Furthermore”, he continued, “this appalling cover-up was demonstrated by the fact that Council officers refused to supply the Local Government Investigator, John Russell, with any documents which could show the culpability of Council officers.  I pointed out in my letter to him of the 22nd April that whenever he asked a question which did not compromise a member of staff the file was available and an answer was given, but whenever he asked a question which could have comprised a member of the Housing Department the disingenuous answer which he got back was that ‘unfortunately we do not have copies of documents that you have requested’.  In the report the Ombudsman refers to the fact that ‘the Council could not provide the case files to my investigator as they had been lost during office moves’ and yet they seem to be quite capable of producing files which did not show culpability but, mysteriously, any files which did show culpability were lost.”

Roger concluded: “I have been in politics long enough to remember what happened over Watergate, when Richard Nixon personally erased parts of tapes which showed his knowledge of the Watergate break-in.  Senior housing officers in Birmingham may not be on a par with Richard Nixon and the White House Watergate conspirators, but they have devised their own way of ensuing that blame and responsibility do not stick. They just brazen it out by saying that ‘our records are incomplete’, or ‘unfortunately we do not have the copies of the documents you requested’. Anybody who believes this disingenuous version of events must believe that Father Christmas really does exist!”