The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr J’s complaint for a community group about the Council’s consultation about education in the borough. There is not enough evidence of fault by the Council or of its actions leading to personal injustice to the complainants, so an investigation is not warranted.
- Mr B complains the Council’s consultation about education in the borough was biased, which unfairly influenced the consultation result.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- We cannot investigate something that affects all or most of the people in a council’s area. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(7), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’ which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse effect on the person(s) making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the council’s actions have not caused injustice to those who complained.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr B provided with his complaint and given him the opportunity to comment on a draft before issuing a final decision.
What I found
- The Council carried out consultation about education in the borough in early 2017 and extended the final response date to 21 July 2017 because of the general election. It published a report on the result of the consultation in December 2017. Its consultation methods included:
- A questionnaire which it invited all residents to complete
- Focus group work
- Engagement activities with groups in the borough.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr J’s complaint because there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council or of its actions leading to personal injustice to the complainants, so an investigation is not warranted.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman