Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council (16 012 383)

Category : Environment and regulation > Drainage

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 14 Jun 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained about the Council’s failure to maintain surface water drains and gullies in her area. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. There is insufficient evidence of fault on the Council’s part which has caused injustice to Mrs X.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains about the Council’s failure to ensure highway drains and gullies in her area. As a result she says that heavy storms in 2016 caused flooding to her home on more than one occasion.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered all the information which Mrs X submitted with her complaint. I have also considered the Council’s response and Mrs X has commented on the draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X says her home has suffered from flooding over the years and particularly in 2016 when there were several severe storms. Her carpets and furniture were damaged and her house insurance has increased as a result. She says the drains and gullies in the highway were blocked because water poured out of them causing surface flooding.
  2. Mrs X complained to the Council in 2016 and again in 2017 when she did not receive a complete response. She wants the Council to prevent future flooding and to consider compensation for her losses. The Council says the flooding in 2016 was not due to a failure of the surface water drains. Most of the gullies near Mrs X’s home were clear at the time of the flooding. The gullies and drains flow into a combined sewer owned by United Utilities. In the severe weather this sewer became full and the overflow surcharged up through the highway drainage system into roads and surrounding property. The Council has sent us details of work which United Utilities has undertaken since the flooding. It says that this work resulted in no further floods in subsequent rainstorms in 2016 and 2017.
  3. The flooding caused to Mrs X’s home resulted from a surcharge from the sewerage system. The Council could not prevent this from occurring and there is no guarantee that any system can completely cope with exceptional weather conditions. Mrs X could seek compensation from United Utilities if the flooding occurs in future but she would need to prove that the flooding resulted from negligence. The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to investigate a private utility company.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. There is insufficient evidence of fault on the Council’s part which has caused injustice to Mrs X.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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