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Sheltered Housing Residents Report Council To Ombudsman

>> 2 November 2011

Residents of numerous sheltered housing complexes across Aberdeenshire have united to support a formal complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman against Aberdeenshire Council. The complaint, which has been lodged by Fraserburgh sheltered housing resident, Martin Coull, focuses on what the residents assert was the deeply flawed consultation process which has led to planned reductions in full-time cover in favour of the introduction of itinerant teams of sheltered housing officers.

A former shop steward, Mr Coull was dissatisfied with the Council’s response to the concerns expressed by the residents of neighbouring sheltered housing complexes in Fraserburgh, and when he found that those concerns were shared by the residents of many other complexes, he contacted residents across Aberdeenshire to seek their support for concerted action.

Mr Coull’s complaint also draws heavily on the evidence of correspondence conducted between Aberdeenshire Council and Cllr Rob Merson of Ellon & District Ward, who engaged extensively with Council chiefs on behalf of his own constituents, and has supported Mr Coull’s action.

Mr Coull remarked:

“I have been in contact with the residents of numerous sheltered housing complexes following complaints about the consultation, and was forced to the opinion that there were serious flaws in that process. The residents of several sheltered housing complexes were required to travel some distance to participate in consultation meetings. The seating arrangements were inadequate, and no provision was made for the hard of hearing at those meetings. Such an arrangement automatically excluded the participation of those most likely to require the assistance of the wardens on a regular basis.”

Cllr Merson commented:

“In the light of the concerns which have been widely expressed by my constituents, I was extremely dissatisfied that local councillors were not invited to attend the consultation meetings, and specifically requested that they should be invited to the information meetings which followed. Although that was agreed to, it is matter of regret that many of these meetings were arranged for times which clashed with Council committee meetings - and even a meeting of Full Council. Many of my colleagues were therefore unable to attend the sheltered housing meetings in their own Wards.

“I informed senior officers of my constituents’ concerns, but I was not satisfied by the answers which were provided. I therefore met with the Director of Social Work & Housing and subsequently received his detailed response to my constituents’ queries. My constituents still did not feel that their concerns were adequately addressed in that response, and they were happy to support Mr Coull in taking a complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.”


Banff & Buchan MP, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, has also written to the Ombudsman in support of Mr Coull’s complaint. Commenting, she said:

“I have met with residents and representatives from a number of sheltered housing residents from across my constituency who have expressed very similar concerns about the consultation process as those that Mr Coull has reported to the Ombudsman. I was therefore happy to support his action.”

Mr Coull added:

“I trust that the Ombudsman will recognise that my complaint has received wide body of support from the many residents who share my concerns, and look forward to his response with great interest.”

Cllr Merson concluded:

“The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman is not in a position to overturn the decisions made by Aberdeenshire Council in respect of sheltered housing care provision. However, if it can be established that the consultation exercise was not conducted in an appropriate manner, then I would expect that the Council should feel obliged to review the policy decisions which have been made on the basis of that consultation.”

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