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Leicestershire County Council (21 003 256)

Category : Education > School transport

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s refusal to agree to the complainant’s request for the school transport to drop her child off at an after-school club several times a week. There is no evidence of fault in the way the Council made its decision.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, I shall call Ms X, complains that the Council refuses to agree to drop her child (I shall call Z) at an after-school club several times a week.
  2. She says this impacts on her ability to work.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if the tests set out in our Assessment Code are not met. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. The law places a duty on the Council to provide home to school travel arrangements for Z. This specifically states home to school means from where he normally lives to his school and back.
  2. The Council’s school transport policy recognises some parents, including working parents, may find it difficult to be at home when the school transport is due to arrive. It says it will consider requests to transport children to or from alternative addresses for childcare arrangements. But this must not add to its costs or impact on the journey of other pupils.
  3. Ms X is a teacher. She says she must apply for new jobs or changes to her working hours by May, for changes to take effect the following September.
  4. In March, she asked the Council if it would agree to drop Z off at an after-school club just over 1.5 miles from their home, several days a week.
  5. The Council explained that it received about 2,200 applications for school transport. It must know what Z’s travel arrangements are before it can consider whether dropping him at a different address more than a mile from his home will
      1. create extra costs; or
      2. impact on another pupil’s journey.
  6. It says it reviews travel arrangements each June/July and therefore it cannot consider requests to vary the journeys until August.
  7. Ms X says the Council not making a decision before the travel arrangements are finalised, has an adverse impact on her ability to change her working hours or apply for a new job.
  8. However, the Council does not have to provide transport to and from any address other than Z’s home and school. Consideration of such requests is discretionary and its policy sets out the criteria which those requests must meet. Travel arrangements must be in place so it can consider whether the criteria are met. This is a decision the Council is entitled to take.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint. I have seen no evidence of fault in the Council not agreeing to take Z to a different address until after the travel arrangements are finalised.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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