Former Haringey Council leader Joseph Ejiofor has been criticised by the local government watchdog over a "flawed" decision to cancel a development scheme.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said Cllr Ejiofor’s decision to drop plans for the demolition of a terrace of houses opposite the former Cranwood Nursing Home in Muswell Hill was "ill-considered" and taken "without proper scrutiny".

In a report published earlier this month, the ombudsman told the council to reconsider all options for the redevelopment of the site.

The ombudsman launched an investigation after a man, referred to in the report as Mr X, complained the council’s handling of the possible buy-up of his home to allow the scheme to go ahead left his family facing six years of uncertainty and caused "considerable stress".

Under the council’s initial plans to redevelop the former care home, two nearby terraces, including the man’s home, were set to be knocked down.

The council first contacted the resident about the plans in 2014. But after no progress was made for some years, in August 2018 Mr X struck a deal that gave a developer the right to buy his home for £1.75 million if he wanted to sell it.

The following month, the council’s cabinet agreed to buy both the neighbouring property and the man’s home. The council bought the neighbour’s home for £2.15 million in June 2019, but the agreement with the developer meant Mr X was not free to sell his house.

Then, after a meeting with council tenants in March 2020, the report says Cllr Ejiofor decided to abandon a version of the scheme that involved the demolition of the terraced houses.

According to the ombudsman’s report, this was an "ill-considered decision based largely on the wishes of the tenants and frustration with the delays in buying Mr X’s house", and there was "no analysis at the time of what the loss of the terrace of houses meant for the viability of the scheme".

Cllr Ejiofor argued he was entitled to make the decision because there had been no firm commitment to go ahead with the plans for the site that included the terrace.

But the report says this position "omits the significant point that the council had already committed a substantial amount of public money in buying the other property which only had that value to the council as part of the larger scheme”"

It adds: "This decision meant that expenditure had been for nothing. The basis for our finding is that there is no demonstration of proper evaluation and weighing up by Cllr Ejiofor. There was no briefing paper or discussion, [and] the decision was entirely his, taken at the time of the meeting."

The report states that at a key point in 2018, the council was not in contact with Mr X, despite being in touch with his neighbour. If it had been, he would have been able to make an informed decision about whether he should enter into the agreement with the developer. According to the report, the evidence showed the council was not even-handed in its approach to the two residents.

The ombudsman has told the council to apologise to Mr X and pay him £1,000 for the stress and uncertainty its actions caused.

A further concern raised by the ombudsman’s report is that an inaccurate picture of events regarding the decision not to go ahead with the demolition was presented to the council’s scrutiny committee.

In response to the report, Cllr Ejiofor said he was "surprised" by the ombudsman’s conclusion.

He said: "The question was whether the council should buy Mr X’s house for three times its value, and he has complained to the ombudsman because the council decided not to do so.

"Ultimately, councillors do not take decisions in a vacuum and always take on board wider considerations and advice.

"I am also surprised that the ombudsman took the unusual decision to explicitly criticise me in this report."

Labour member Cllr Ejiofor claimed the decision not to demolish the terrace "was a result of the council listening to residents" who had "opposed the demolition of their homes".

He said officers had "advised that the council could still achieve its objective of building council homes at council rents in Muswell Hill without acquiring the terrace".

Peray Ahmet, who took over as leader of Haringey Council in May last year, said she was "determined to understand fully what happened and consider all necessary actions".

She added: "On behalf of Haringey Council, I would like to apologise to Mr X and our council tenants for the uncertainty and stress they have experienced. In the future, I will ensure we pay closer attention to ensuring that all those affected, or potentially affected by redevelopment schemes, receive regular communication from us throughout.

"I believe in the importance of open, transparent and accountable processes and acknowledge that the council may not have met its own high standards in this case.

"Initial measures have already been taken to strengthen our internal governance around property acquisition, and I’ve asked the new chief executive to review as a priority the arrangements for future property transactions. I will want assurances that these are both fit for purpose and transparent."