Coventry & Warwickshire

Coventry City Council apologises for company 'witch-hunt'

Coventry City view
Image caption The Local Government Ombudsman ruled the council abused its safeguarding powers

A city council has been forced to apologise after a report found it conducted an "unreasonable campaign" against a company and its director.

The Local Government Ombudsman ruled Coventry City Council abused its safeguarding powers to carry out what the company's director calls a "witch-hunt".

The ombudsman delivered a rare finding of "maladministration with injustice".

The council said it had carried out the ombudsman's recommendations.

'We were blackballed'

John Kavanagh, a director of Open Doors, a charitable company that provides housing support for disabled people, said the firm had brought three complaints against the council about the abuse. These were upheld by the ombudsman.

"Up until 2006 we had an excellent relationship with the council but then there was a change of management in social services," he said.

"After that, we noticed some examples of poor practice and we sought to speak to them about it."

Mr Kavanagh said he had met the head of social services and councillors.

"From that point, when we stuck our heads above the parapet, things started to go downhill," he said.

"The council had been our major source of referrals but since 2006, we haven't had one referral to date from them. We were blackballed."

The ombudsman found the council's actions against Mr Kavanagh amounted to "an unreasonable campaign".

Image caption In 2014 the council's children's services were branded inadequate by Ofsted following Daniel's Pelka's death

"We were subject to an all-out witch-hunt," Mr Kavanagh said.

"The council invested huge resources in pursuing this campaign against us.

"There were more than 20 meetings and seven safeguarding investigations.

"This was all happening at the same time as Daniel Pelka was tragically being tortured and killed.

"Ultimately Coventry needs to be held accountable. So far, I've had a half-hearted, mealy-mouthed apology."

In March 2014, the council's children's services were branded inadequate by Ofsted, two years after the death of four-year-old Daniel

In a letter to Mr Kavangah, the council's chief executive Martin Reeves wrote: "I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to you for the mistreatment you have received from the council."

In a statement, the council said: "We have implemented the recommendations to the ombudsman's satisfaction.

"Unfortunately, we are unable to comment further."

Michael King, the ombudsman's executive director, said: "While we cannot comment on the specific nature of this particular investigation, I am pleased to confirm that the council has satisfied the recommendations that we have made.

"The law requires us to maintain the privacy of everybody involved in our investigations, and so our decisions are anonymised.

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