The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains about the way council tax support correspondence is written by the Council. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint because the matter has been remedied and a right of appeal exists for any dispute about any decisions.
- Mr X complains about the way council tax support correspondence is written by the Council.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- The Social Entitlement Chamber (also known as the Social Security Appeal Tribunal) is a tribunal that considers housing benefit appeals. (The Social Entitlement Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the comments of the complainant and the Council’s responses to the complaint. The complainant had had an opportunity to comment on the draft decision.
What I found
- Mr X says that he received a letter in 2019 using terminology which he says would be very confusing to other claimants. The Council responded by explaining that letters are legally required to include a lot of information which may appear confusing to some. However, the Council says that the letters have since been amended now to make them clearer.
- I am satisfied that the Council has remedied the complaint by reviewing, and amending the letters. If Mr X disagreed with any decision made by the Council he had a right of appeal to a tribunal. The tribunal is an independent, expert body whose decisions are binding on the Council. I therefore consider that it would be reasonable to pursue an appeal in this case.
- I do not intend to investigate this complaint because the matter has been remedied and there was a right of appeal to a tribunal.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman