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Lancashire County Council (22 003 002)

Category : Children's care services > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 19 Jun 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s complaint handling. The substantive matters complained about concern the actions of a school, which we could not investigate. And there is not enough evidence of fault in the way the Council has managed Mrs X’s correspondence to warrant investigation of that alone.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X said the Council failed to address her complaint, making no reference to an earlier complaint response, which she said contained inaccurate information and caused offence. She said she feels victimised by the Council for raising legitimate complaints about the services it provides. She wanted an unreserved apology from the officer who wrote the earlier complaint response, a full investigation of the issues she raised, and the immediate removal of the Council’s requirement that she use a single point of contact to communicate with it.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate complaints about what happens in schools. (Local Government Act 1974, Schedule 5, paragraph 5(b), as amended)
  2. The Courts have said that we cannot investigate a complaint about any action by a council, concerning a matter which is itself out of our jurisdiction. (R (on the application of M) v Commissioner for Local Administration [2006] EHWCC 2847 (Admin))
  3. 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 there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating. (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. The complaint response which Mrs X said contained inaccuracies and was offensive concerned a complaint about the actions of a school, including the way the school dealt with her complaints. We could not deal with matters that are internal to a school, so we cannot investigate the Council’s response to a complaint about those matters.
  2. The only remaining issue is the Council’s more recent decision to require Mrs X to use a single point of contact and to warn her that it will implement its policy of dealing with vexatious and unreasonably persistent complainants if the volume and detail of her complaints does not moderate. Given that the complaints relate largely to the actions of a school, where the Council has limited authority, the potential fault is too limited to warrant investigation.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint because:
  • The substantive matters concern the actions of a school, which we could not investigate;
  • We cannot investigate a complaint about the Council’s actions concerning a matter outside our jurisdiction; and
  • The general matter of the Council’s imposition of a single point of contact and warning of the use of a vexatious and persistent complaint policy is not one where there is likely to be enough fault to warrant investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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