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London Borough of Lambeth (22 001 608)

Category : Benefits and tax > Council tax

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 22 May 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about a late council tax refund. This is because the Council has provided a fair and proportionate remedy.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Ms X, wants interest on a late council tax refund.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Ms X and the Council. This includes the Council’s response. I considered our Assessment Code, our guidance on remedies, and comments Ms X made in reply to a draft of this decision.

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My assessment

  1. Ms X was due a council tax refund from May 2021. In June she sent an email asking if she was entitled to a refund. The Council failed to process the refund request until February when Ms X chased for a response.
  2. The Council processed the refund of £1,115 in February. On 3 May it apologised for not issuing the refund in June and awarded £200 compensation. It asked Ms X to provide bank details so it could make the payment. The Council also said it would arrange for measures to be put in place to stop the mistake happening again. Ms X provided her bank details on 18 May; the Council said it would process the payment.
  3. Ms X wants interest on the refund. She has had a period of unemployment and could have used the money.
  4. There was fault by the Council because it failed to process the refund request in June. If there had not been any fault Ms X would have received the refund in June/July. But, Ms X did not receive the refund until February. But, despite the fault I will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council has explained what went wrong, apologised, implemented changes to stop the error happening again and awarded £200. The amount awarded is consistent with our guidance and sufficient to cover any loss of interest and the stress and upset caused to Ms X.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint because the Council has provided a fair and proportionate remedy.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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