The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs W complained the Council did not consider her physical circumstances when it reviewed her blue badge application. This meant Mrs W’s blue badge was not renewed. During our investigation, the Council reconsidered its decision and renewed Mrs W’s blue badge. The Ombudsman finds fault with the Council for not appropriately assessing Mrs W’s application in the first instance. The Ombudsman recommended the Council apologise to Mrs W and pay her £150.
- Mrs W complains the Council did not consider her physical circumstances when it declined to renew her blue badge.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have spoken to Mrs W and considered the information she provided. I have reviewed relevant legislation, policies and guidance.
- I have sent a draft decision to Mrs W and the Council for their comments.
What I found
- The Council previously awarded Mrs W a blue badge. In July 2018, Mrs W applied for the renewal of her blue badge.
- In her application, Mrs W highlighted her medical condition and how her medical condition affected her ability to walk. She highlighted she was in constant pain and walked with a limp. She also highlighted the fact she could not bend her knees fully. This meant she needed to open a car door fully to enter and exit the vehicle.
- Mrs W also said she could walk approximately 274 meters in 20 minutes before feeling severe discomfort.
- The Council declined to renew Mrs W’s blue badge following a desk-based assessment. The Council told Mrs W this was because a blue badge was not solely for the use of entering and exiting a vehicle. It also said Mrs W had described being able to mobilise a distance that exceeded what was expected from an eligible applicant.
- In August, Mrs W appealed the Council’s decision not to renew her blue badge. In her appeal, Mrs W again highlighted how her medical condition affected her ability to walk. Mrs W also said the ability to open a car door fully was the primary reason for her applying for a blue badge. Mrs W submitted a GP letter as supporting evidence which also highlighted this reason.
- After considering Mrs W’s appeal, the Council declined to renew Mrs W’s blue badge. The Council’s reasons for declining remained the same.
- Following my enquiries, the Council reviewed its decision and decided to award Mrs W a blue badge. The Council said it reviewed its own approach and was now able to justify Mrs W’s eligibility.
- During my investigation, the Council reviewed its decision and awarded Mrs W a blue badge. The Council said it now considered Mrs W was eligible for a blue badge. It is not clear what information the Council considered when it reviewed its decision. However, it appears no new information was provided to the Council. This therefore suggests the Council’s decision would have been based on the information already provided to the Council by Mrs W in her application form and during her appeals.
- This was fault as the Council should have decided to renew Mrs W’s blue badge during the assessment of her application or during the appeal process.
- I must now consider if the fault identified led to any injustice. Mrs W’s blue badge was due to expire in August 2018 and Mrs W applied for the renewal of her blue badge before this. If the fault had not occurred, Mrs W’s blue badge would have been renewed before the expiry date.
- However, because of the fault, Mrs W was left without a blue badge for approximately 10 weeks. Mrs W said she was not able to travel independently without a blue badge and this made it difficult for her to attend her medical appointments. This caused Mrs W an inconvenience which was avoidable. The fault identified therefore caused Mrs W an injustice.
- To remedy the injustice, the Council should apologise to Mrs W for failing to appropriately assess her application in the first instance. The Council should also make a financial payment of £150 to Mrs W in recognition of the inconvenience caused.
- The Council should remind all appropriate staff of the importance of considering all relevant information when making an assessment.
- The Council should complete the above remedy within four weeks of my final decision.
- I find fault with the Council for failing to appropriately assess Mrs W’s blue badge application in the first instance. The Council has accepted my recommendation. I am satisfied and will complete my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman