Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 08 Jan 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains about delays and errors frustrating his attempts to transfer the ownership of a family grave to himself. We have discontinued our investigation of this complaint as we believe any injustice caused to Mr X is not significant enough to justify our involvement.
- Mr X complains about delays and errors frustrating his attempts to transfer the ownership of a family grave to himself. He says this has resulted in him experiencing inconvenience and expense.
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, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s response.
- Mr X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- In summer 2019, Mr X discovered the location of the grave of his grandparents. He contacted the Council about transferring the deeds of the grave from his grandmother to himself. His grandparents are buried there, and he wanted to erect a headstone.
- In January 2020, Mr X wrote the Council to arrange a meeting to discuss the transfer of deeds. Over the following months, Mr X said that phone calls and emails to the Council went unanswered. In March 2020, Mr X complained to the Council. He explained that he has spent time and effort, and money on solicitors with no effect. He also said he had paid for the transfer application but had not received a receipt or acknowledgement from the Council.
- In April, the Council wrote to Mr X. It apologised for the delay and clarified the roles of specific Council officers in relation to his case. It also confirmed the grave had been transferred to Mr X.
- Mr X escalated his complaint to stage 2 as he said the Council did not explain the reasons for the delay. He also questioned the fees and lack of a receipt. On 30th April, the Council responded to Mr X. It said because the Council had upheld his complaint and had transferred the deeds, it assumed he would be satisfied with the outcome.
- In May, Mr X contacted the Council about the grave requiring soil bring it up to the surround ground level. The Council responded and said it had flagged his request to the relevant people. Mr X said the grave was still sunk in August.
- From the evidence I have seen, the Council was delayed in dealing with Mr X’s initial request. The Council has acknowledged this delay and has apologised for it.
- Further investigation by the Ombudsman would not identify that this delay caused Mr X a significant injustice. I have discontinued my investigation on this basis.
- I have discontinued my investigation. This is because it is unlikely that further investigation would determine the Council’s delay has resulted in a significant personal injustice to Mr X.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman