Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 24 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s decision not to grant council tax support. This is because if Mr X disagrees with the Council’s decision it is reasonable for him to appeal to a valuation tribunal.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains the Council has refused his application for council tax support. Mr X is also unhappy with the length of time the Council took to deal with his application.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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 Valuation Tribunal deals with appeals against decisions on council tax liability and council tax support or reduction.
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Mr X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the information he provided. I also gave Mr X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before reaching a final decision on his complaint.
What I found
- Mr X applied for council tax support because of a health condition he suffers from. The Council eventually rejected Mr X’s application on the grounds he was not ‘severely mentally impaired’. Mr X complained to the Council and asked it to review its decision. Mr X was also unhappy with the length of time taken to deal with his application. The Council responded to Mr X and explained its decision. The Council acknowledged there had been delays and said it would investigate.
- The Ombudsman is not a right of appeal for people who disagree with decisions about their council tax. Decisions about liability or discounts can be appealed to the tribunal mentioned in paragraph 4. The tribunal is an expert, impartial body, set up by Parliament for people to challenge council tax decisions. When there is a right of appeal to a tribunal, the Ombudsman normally expects people to use that right, unless it is unreasonable for them to do so. I do not consider that to be the case here. If Mr X wants to challenge the Council’s decision he can appeal to the tribunal.
- Mr X is also unhappy with the way the Council dealt with his original application. But we will not investigate how a council dealt with an application or complaint, if we are not going to investigate the issue at the heart of the complaint itself. In this case, that is the decision not to award council tax support. An investigation by the Ombudsman is not therefore appropriate.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint. This is because if Mr X disagrees with the Council’s decision it is reasonable for him to appeal to a valuation tribunal.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman