Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 25 Aug 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint that officers spoke about the complainant in a public place. This is because the Council has provided a fair response.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, complains officers discussed personal information about her in a public place. Mrs X wants a better apology to reflect the unacceptable way she has been treated.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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))
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by Mrs X and the Council. This includes the complaint replies and the CCTV recordings. I considered our Assessment Code and invited Mrs X to comment on a draft of this decision.
- Officers visited Mrs X to discuss family matters. Mrs X complained that the officers discussed personal information about her on the doorstep and while waiting on the garden path. In response, the Council apologised and said it had reminded staff to be mindful of where they hold conversations and to have discussions in private. But it also said that, having watched the recordings, there was no evidence of personal information being revealed and the incident was not a data breach.
- I have watched the recordings. The officers were speaking quietly and there is a lot of background noise. There were no people around apart from an occasional person walking past. It is very difficult to hear what was said and I agree with the Council that if anyone did hear anything it would have been a meaningless snippet of a conversation which could not identify anyone.
- I will not investigate this complaint because the Council has provided a fair and proportionate response. It has apologised and reminded staff to be careful of their surroundings when having conversations. As there is no evidence anyone would have heard anything about Mrs X then this is a fair response and an investigation is not needed.
- I will not start an investigation because the Council has provided a fair response.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman