A COUNCIL fell ‘far below’ what residents should have been able to expect when it failed to ensure serious building defects would be corrected, a report found.

West Oxfordshire District Council was found to have been slow to act over a resident’s concerns that problems had not been addressed in new sheltered accommodation.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found a council officer had entered into a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with a builder when it issued a completion certification for the new property.

But critical work was left undone. Defects were only picked up when a concerned resident – referred to as Mr X – brought surveyors in at his own expenses.

They found cavity fire wall stops and were missing from Mr X’s home, along with his neighbour’s. Incomplete fire stopping was also missing from Mr X’s loft.

WODC was first told of Mr X’s worries about his home in April 2017 – but failed to send out letters to residents in the sheltered accommodation for nine months. That was five months after an officer had told Mr X that letters would be sent out.

The ombudsman said: "Given the nature of the concerns, particularly around fire safety issues…one would have reasonably expected the council to have taken action sooner to notify all residents and to have explained clearly what had caused it to write to them.”

Mr X was then told work at his home to fix the defects had been done, when it had not been. The council is now thought to have completed it.

The council said that of two building officers involved in the errors, one had retired and the other had moved to another employer. It added that it has since been awarded accreditation to an international body.

One its former staff had developed a ‘lax and over-friendly relationship’ with the builder, and had not worked to ensure the building complied with regulations.

The ombudsman added: “I note the council has been unable to explain how other completion certificates at the same same were issued for ‘financial year end purposes only.’”

Mr X spent £1,100 on surveys – but the council agreed to pay half. The ombudsman told it to pay an extra £250 towards that.

A WODC spokeswoman said: “The council has noted the Ombudsman’s comments which relate to a development carried out in 2016 and early 2017.

"Since that time, we have achieved ISO 9001 2015 Quality Management accreditation and are working with the developer to resolve the outstanding issues on the site.”