Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 12 Apr 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s decision not to grant her daughter free transport to school. It is unlikely an investigation would find fault with how the decision was reached and so we cannot question its merits.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Ms X, complains the Council has refused her application and appeals for free school transport.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. 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)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Ms X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and information from the Council. I gave Ms X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision and considered her response.
What I found
- Ms X asked the Council to provide her daughter with free transport to primary school. The Council refused her application because there was a closer school to home which could offer a place.
- Councils must apply their school transport policy when deciding entitlement to transport assistance. But they also have the discretion to consider exceptional circumstances, and they must have a review or appeal process by which to do so. Ms X appealed against the Council’s decision.
- A senior officer refused Ms X’s appeal at the first stage of the Council’s appeals process. They confirmed there was a closer school to her home. An appeal panel made up of elected members considered Ms X’s appeal at the second stage of the process. The Panel considered information from the Council. This included the reason Ms X’s application had been refused, and how much it would cost to provide her daughter with free transport to her preferred school. The Panel asked the Council’s representative questions about the information sent to Ms X when she applied for a school place. It asked how it measures distances from home to school.
- The Panel asked Ms X questions and considered the information she provided. It considered the distances from home to school and agreed with the Council there was a closer school to Ms X’s home with spaces. The Panel decided the Council had properly applied its policy and decided not to uphold Ms X’s appeal.
- The Ombudsman is not an appeal body and we cannot criticise a decision which is properly made, or intervene to substitute an alternative view. The Council has applied its school transport policy and there is no indication of fault in the way it did so. Appeal panels are entitled to make their own judgements on the information before them. Based on the evidence available, it is unlikely an investigation would find fault with the way the Council has acted.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint. This is because it is unlikely an investigation would find fault with the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman