Manchester City Council (16 017 462)

Category : Education > School transport

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms A’s complaint about the Council’s refusal to grant free school transport for her children because it is unlikely he would find fault on the Council’s part.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will refer to as Ms A, complains that the Council has refused her application and appeal for free school transport for her children.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Ms A has said in support of her complaint and the application and appeal documents provided by the Council.

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What I found

  1. Three of Ms A’s children attend the same secondary school. Ms A applied for free school transport for the children. The Council refused the application because the family home is 1.85 miles from the school. Under its school transport policy, pupils must live more than two miles from the school to qualify for assistance.
  2. Ms A asked the Council to consider giving her children free transport because of the family’s circumstances. She stated that she needed to accompany her children to school because they felt the route was unsafe. This is difficult for her because she has no access to a car and her youngest daughter is autistic.
  3. Councils have the discretion to consider exceptional circumstances and must have a review and appeal process by which to do so. The Council considered Ms A’s representations at a review and rejected them. An appeal panel then considered the case. It decided that the original decision to refuse free school transport was correct and there were no exceptional circumstances to justify allowing the appeal.
  4. The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms A’s complaint because it is unlikely she would identify fault on the Council’s part. The Council has applied its school transport policy and there is no indication of fault in the way in it did so. Appeal panels are entitled to make their own judgements on the evidence before them. The Ombudsman cannot criticise a decision which is properly made or intervene to substitute an alternative view.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms A’s complaint because it is unlikely he would find fault on the Council’s part.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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