Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 26 Apr 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s decision not to grant her child 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 Mrs 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 Mrs X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and information from the Council. I gave Mrs X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Mrs X asked the Council to provide her son with free transport to school. It refused her application because there was a closer school to home. This school is only 1.5 miles away. The school her son attends is over eight miles away.
- 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. Mrs X appealed against the Council’s decision and provided information in support of her appeal.
- A senior officer refused Mrs X’s appeal at the first stage of the Council’s appeals process. They decided her application had been properly assessed and the extra information she had provided did not warrant an exception to the Council’s home to school transport policy.
- An appeal panel made up of three senior officers considered Mrs X’s appeal at the second stage of the appeals process. The Panel considered information from the Council’s transport policy and information from Mrs X. The Panel decided the Council had properly applied its policy and there was no automatic entitlement to free transport. It decided there were not enough grounds to grant the 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 Mrs 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