Disabled resident compensated after Uttlesford council 'fault'
- Credit: Archant
A disabled woman and her husband have been awarded £7,000 by Uttlesford District Council after it failed to monitor the escalating costs of an extension to her home.
It took UDC almost three years to estimate the extension would cost at least £226,000, which would be too expensive for both itself and Essex County Council.
The woman - referred to as Mrs C - complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).
According to a LGSCO report, the council told a design company in May 2019 it had been “plucking figures out of the air.”
Mrs C believes that if the council realised it could not afford the extension earlier, all involved could have started pursuing an alternative earlier.
Conservative councillor Edward Oliver revealed in an Uttlesford District Council meeting that Mrs C's family has received compensation.
He said: “Uttlesford is at fault."
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Councils have a statutory duty to provide grant aid to disabled people for certain adaptations.
ECC carried out an assessment in 2016 which concluded Mrs C’s needs could be met by extending and adapting her family home.
She was given a cost estimate of £94,000 in September the same year, but by 2018, UDC told the county council a "rough estimate would be (and I may be wrong)” up to £125,000.
After a maximum £30,000 Disability Facilities Grant (DFG) and a one-off loan of £10,000, there was still a shortfall of £85,000.
Neither council had decided how to meet this shortfall.
Planning permission for the extension was then refused in June 2019 on the grounds that it would be intrusive to neighbours.
An architect told UDC that costs had increased to £226,000, in part to realise a flat roof design.
Both councils agreed they could not go beyond £120,000.
Mrs C told ECC in January 2020 “with deep regret” that she would accept an offer of a new-build three-bedroom bungalow.
The LGSCO recommended UDC apologises for faults and distress caused, award Mrs C's family £7,000 in compensation and share the lessons learned with officers and teams involved with DFGs and adaptations.
The council has introduced a new policy for dealing with these sorts of complaints, Cllr Oliver noted.