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Oadby & Wigston Borough Council (22 001 056)

Category : Benefits and tax > Council tax

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 08 May 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about a failed council tax direct debit. This is because the Council has provided a fair response and there is not enough remaining injustice to require an investigation.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, says the Council did not set up a council tax direct debit which led to him receiving a reminder. He also says the complaint responses were late. Mr X wants compensation for the poor service and the time he spent trying to resolve the problem.

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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 an investigation if we decide:
  • the Council has provided a fair and proportionate response, or
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council. This includes Mr X’s complaints to the Council and the Council’s responses. I also considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. In December Mr X set up a direct debit to pay his council tax. The Council issued a bill in January and sent a reminder in March because it had not received any council tax payments.
  2. Mr X contacted his bank and found there was no direct debit in place. Mr X complained to the Council and asked for compensation.
  3. The Council explained it had set up the direct debit but, due to a systems error, no payments were taken. It apologised and confirmed the problem had been resolved and payments would start in April. The Council accepted Mr X had spent time resolving the issue but declined to pay compensation because he had not suffered a financial loss.
  4. Mr X is dissatisfied with the reply. He says the Council blamed him and sent a letter threatening legal action. He was worried he would be taken to court and had to spend time resolving the problem.
  5. I will not investigate this complaint because the Council has provided a fair and proportionate response. It explained what went wrong, apologised and promptly resolved the issue with the direct debit after Mr X got in touch. Council tax is an automated process and the Council would have been unaware of the problem until Mr X responded to the reminder. And, reminders are issued automatically when a payment is missed.
  6. Further, once the Council’s response is taken into account, there is not enough remaining injustice to require an investigation. Mr X received the reminder in March and, by the end of the month, he knew the issue had been resolved. He did not receive a court summons, was not taken to court, and has not suffered a financial loss. He was caused some inconvenience and stress but no more than is to be expected when trying to resolve a problem. We only recommend a financial remedy if someone is put to excess time and trouble. In this case, while Mr X says the complaint reply was outside the timescale, the matter was promptly resolved and there is nothing that requires either compensation or an investigation.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because the Council has provided a fair and proportionate response and there is not enough remaining injustice to require an investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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