Wakefield City Council (16 013 518)

Category : Education > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 24 Jan 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr P’s complaint about an education services officer’s conduct. It is unlikely she could achieve any further significant remedy, and there is insignificant injustice to Mr P.

The complaint

  1. The complaint, whom I shall call Mr P, says a Council officer sent a discriminatory email about his wife to another colleague.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. She provides a free service, but must use public money carefully. She may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if she believes:
    • it is unlikely she would find fault, or
    • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
    • the injustice is not significant enough to justify her involvement, or
    • it is unlikely she could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
    • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
    • she cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
    • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  2. The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. She must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr P provided with his complaint and the Council’s replies to his complaints which it provided. Mr P commented on a draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr and Mrs P have a child, D, who is autistic. They have contact with the special education needs team about D’s education.
  2. Mr and Mrs P submitted a subject access request. One of the documents the Council sent them in reply is an email which they are unhappy with. They do not like the use of speech marks in a sentence around the word “spoken” and the officer’s decision to pass on their opinion on Mrs P’s feelings about reports.
  3. The Council apologised for any offence caused. It said it was not best practice but was not intended to cause offence and had been written with speed.

Analysis

  1. The Equality and Human Rights Commission are better placed to advice, assist and consider Mr P’s assertion that the Equalities Act has been breached.
  2. There is no practical prospect of the Ombudsman being able to investigate robustly the meeting which initiated Mr P’s complaint.
  3. The Council’s response to the email complaint appears reasonable and proportionate.
  4. There is no evidence here Mr and Mrs P have lost out on any service, or will not be able to access services, because they have to contact the manager, in comparison to having another named officer to contact.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr P’s complaint because it is not warranted by the alleged injustice, there is no worthwhile outcome achievable and there is another body better placed.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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