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London Borough of Tower Hamlets (21 010 601)

Category : Benefits and tax > Council tax

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 22 Nov 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about problems with Mr X’s council tax. This is because the Council’s actions were sufficient remedy for any injustice caused to Mr X. A financial remedy is not warranted.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains about the Council’s handling of matters related to his council tax. He says he had to spend time chasing the matter, incurred telephone costs and took time off work.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X told the Council he had rented out his property. Mr X owed £29.48 council tax before the new tenant became liable. The Council agreed to take that sum by direct debit from Mr X. Instead, the Council mistakenly cancelled the direct debit and gave Mr X inaccurate information about that. The Council did not reply to four emails Mr X sent over six weeks about this. Mr X then telephoned the Council, which reinstated the direct debit and took the money seven weeks after it was supposed to. When Mr X asked to make a complaint, the Council gave him the wrong email address. The Council says it has reminded relevant managers of the correct procedure when someone wants to complain.
  2. The Council apologised to Mr X for the problems but did not offer him a payment. Mr X wants the Council to pay him £300.
  3. I realise the Council’s faults caused Mr X frustration and he spent some time dealing with the matter. I am mindful Mr X was being honest, reminding the Council that he owed it money. However, Mr X, as a landlord, might reasonably expect to have to spend some time dealing with matters related to renting out the property, including dealing with problems that are not his fault. I am also mindful the matter related to a small amount of money. I acknowledge Mr X’s dissatisfaction with the Council. However, in all the circumstances, I do not believe the Council’s faults affected Mr X significantly enough for the Ombudsman to ask the Council to make a payment.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because the Council’s actions were an adequate remedy.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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