Deputy ombudsman to stand down in overhaul
The deputy housing ombudsman is to stand down as the service prepares to take on an enhanced role from April next year.
Rafael Runco, who was partly responsible for setting up the service in its current form, will leave to work as an independent advisor ahead of changes that will see the housing ombudsman take on responsiblity for all social housing cases in England - including those currently handled by the local government ombudsman.
Mr Runco will leave in December and be replaced by the ombudsman’s director of casework Helen Megarry from 1 January next year.
The changes to the role of the housing ombudsman are contained in the Localism Act 2011, and will be implemented in April 2013.
The government had intended to introduce a ‘democratic filter’ at the same time that would have meant complaints could only be referred to the ombudsman by a local MP, councillor of tenant panel. However this plan was watered down following opposition, and tenants will now be able to go direct to the ombudsman if it has not been resolved by their landlord within eight weeks.
Ombudsman Mike Biles is now consulting on the terms of the new system, which will include slimming down his team, revising roles in the service, a new website, further outsourcing, and a re-designed dispute resolution process.
He said this will ‘ensure optimum allocation of resources to service delivery so that his team can add more value and make an impact that is relevant, proportionate and cost-effective’.
Deputy ombudsman Rafael Runco took on his current role in 2000. He has been involved in landlord and tenant relations since the mid-1980s and formulated the original proposals for an ombudsman for housing associations in 1992.
Dr Biles said: ‘Rafael’s contribution to the creation and development of the service has been immense and incalculable. I am sorry to see him go but delighted that he sees this as an opportunity to extend the application of his skills in the sector.’
Mr Runco said: ‘It has been a privilege to work with so many people who are so committed to improving people’s homes and, as part of it, to dealing with complaints and disputes in a fair and effective way. I hope to continue to contribute to that work from a different perspective.’
The closing date for the consultation is on 15 December.