The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council was at fault for a delay in issuing a replacement school bus pass to Mr B's daughter. It has apologised, and has agreed to make a payment of £41.80 to recognise the amount Mr B paid for school transport during the period of delay.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr B, says a school bus driver confiscated his daughter’s bus pass, incorrectly claiming it was not valid. Mr B contacted the Council, explained the situation and asked for a replacement pass.
- Mr B complains that the Council failed to send a new pass for seven weeks. He says it then accepted its mistake but offered no explanation or remedy.
- Mr B says he had to borrow £81 to pay for bus tickets for his daughter. He wants the Council to refund this money and change its process so it does not make similar mistakes in future.
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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information from Mr B and the Council. Both parties had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- In mid-October 2021 Mr B’s daughter’s bus pass was confiscated. He told the Council about this two days after it happened.
- The Council did not send Mr B’s daughter a new pass until late November, and it did not arrive until early December.
- The Council accepted fault and apologised to Mr B for the delay. It also said it had changed its process to prevent similar mistakes in future. This process change involves issuing passes digitally rather than in the post.
- No matter how many procedural changes councils put in place, it is difficult to eliminate human error – which is what was likely to have been the issue here. But I can see how issuing passes digitally will reduce some delays in future.
- The remaining question is whether the Council should refund the amount Mr B borrowed to pay for bus tickets.
- The Council’s school transport policy says:
If a pass has been lost, stolen, damaged or confiscated … Any costs incurred whilst waiting for a replacement pass are non-refundable.
- The Council says it aims to issue all replacement passes within 10 working days. For this reason, it says it does not consider it appropriate to refund Mr B for money he spent during the 10 working days after he requested the replacement.
- However, the Council acknowledges that it took longer than 10 working days to issue the new pass. It therefore offers to pay Mr B £41.80 – the cost of a bus pass for the period of the delay, taking into account the October half-term, at £2.20 per day (the daily ticket rate).
- This is an acceptable offer.
- The Council has agreed to make a payment of £41.80 to recognise its delay in issuing a replacement school bus pass to Mr B’s daughter. This payment reflects the amount Mr B paid for school transport during the period of delay.
- The Council should make the payment within six weeks of this decision.
- The Council was at fault. The agreed action remedies Mr B’s injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman