Cornwall Council has been criticised for being “uncooperative” in how it dealt with a complaint about a decision to give a homeless teenager a tent in which to sleep.

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) ordered the council to pay compensation to the teenager and his mother over the incident earlier this year.

But in its annual letter to the council the LGO criticised it for how it had responded to the complaint and claimed the council tried to get an LGO investigator to sign a confidentiality agreement over files relating to the case.

LGO chairman Michael King wrote in his letter to council chief executive Kate Kennally: “I was pleased that the council eventually agreed to pay him a total of £2,500, plus £1,500 to his mother, who brought the complaint on his behalf. I also welcome the improvements the council has since made to its policies and procedures for accommodating homeless 16 and 17-year-olds, which now take account of the fact that it is not always safe to comply with the accommodation preferences of some young people. You also agreed to draw up an action plan to make sure that there is sufficient accommodation available for homeless young people in Cornwall and to train staff to make sure they are aware that tents, static caravans and bed and breakfast accommodation are never suitable for homeless 16 and 17 year-olds.

“I was concerned, however, that the council’s approach to the investigation was generally un-cooperative. It had previously required our intervention for the council to consider the complaint by the complainant’s mother. When she returned to us, the council delayed responding to our enquiries, declining at first to supply documents we asked for on the grounds we did not have the complainant’s consent to share them with his mother. We had to threaten to issue a witness summons in order to receive them.

“It was unacceptable that the council later attempted to get my investigator to sign a confidentiality agreement before being permitted to inspect files at your offices. We take the view that you should be aware of the provision of the Local Government Act 1974 that permits my investigators, acting under delegated powers, to examine evidence and witnesses.

“The council was also reluctant to accept fault. For example, after receiving our draft report, the council wrote to us to say that routine use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless 16 and 17 year-olds had not happened in Cornwall, despite it being clear from your own files and the accounts of council officers at interview this was not the case. I note

the council has since confirmed to the local media that it has placed young people in bed and breakfast accommodation 18 times since 2016.”

Mr King was also critical of the council for how it dealt with another complaint regarding an autistic boy who had not been given access to education and support.

The LGO found against the council which was ordered to pay financial compensation to the boy and his family.

But Mr King stated: “It was concerning that during our investigation the council repeatedly insisted that it was not aware that the boy was not receiving a full-time education until November 2016. However, the council’s children’s services department, as well as an educational psychologist and

autism adviser working for the council, were aware of the situation from as early as October 2015. We do not believe it was the council’s intention to mislead my office in this case, but it is important that the council ensures it responds properly to our enquiries and consults with all departments and teams who may have been involved.”

And Mr King also said the council had delayed in responding to the LGO in dealing with a case over a village green application which had not been completed for more than 10 years.

The LGO also said that in addition to the cases which had been made public the council had also delayed or given incomplete responses to the ombudsman.

Mr King wrote: ” These delays can add to complainants’ distress, particularly when they have already had to navigate a time-consuming complaints process. I would encourage the council to reflect on these issues over the coming year and look at ways to improve its interactions with our office so that we can work together in providing an efficient and effective complaints service to the public.”