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Essex County Council (17 019 667)

Category : Education > School transport

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 13 Apr 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s decision not to provide her daughter with free transport to school. This is because the complaint is late and there are no good reasons to exercise the Ombudsman’s discretion to investigate.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, is unhappy the Council refused her application and appeals for free school transport in 2016.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mrs X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and information from the Council. I gave Mrs X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision and considered her comments.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X applied for free transport to school for her daughter in 2016. The Council refused the application. Mrs X appealed and referred to the fact her elder daughter had received free transport to the same school. The Council refused her appeals. It explained that while Mrs X’s daughter was attending her ‘catchment’ school, there was another school which was closer to her home. A change in policy from 2015 meant the Council only provided free transport to children attending the closest school to home. Mrs X’s elder daughter had received free transport to her catchment school, under the previous policy, but it no longer applied.
  2. The Ombudsman normally expects people to complain to us within twelve months of them becoming aware of a problem. Mrs X’s complaint is therefore late, although I do still have discretion to consider it. We look at each complaint individually and on its merits, but we do not accept late complaints unless there are good reasons to do so. I have seen no reason Mrs X could not have complained to the Ombudsman much sooner. I will not therefore exercise the discretion which is available to me.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s late complaint. This is because there are no good reasons to exercise the Ombudsman’s discretion to do so.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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