Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (20 000 723)

Category : Environment and regulation > Cemeteries and crematoria

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 22 Jul 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the compensation the Council offered after it prepared the wrong plot for a burial. This is because the Council has offered a fair and proportionate remedy.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, says the Council’s offer of £250, after it prepared the wrong plot for a burial, is inadequate. Mr X wants a full or 75% refund of his costs of £6000.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 an investigation if the Council has already provided a fair remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s response. I considered the Ombudsman’s guidance on remedies. I invited Mr X to comment on this draft decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. Mr X arranged a funeral for his mother. He initially agreed a plot near to the graves of other family members (plot one). The Council then identified a plot adjacent to the grave of a family member (plot two). Mr X accepted plot two.
  2. When Mr X arrived for the burial the Council explained it had wrongly prepared plot one. It gave Mr X the option of using plot one or waiting for plot two to be prepared. Mr X decided to wait for plot two. The Council took about an hour to prepare plot two and Mr X’s mother was buried in plot two. Mr X says the experience was very distressing and upsetting.
  3. Mr X complained to the Council. In response the Council apologised and explained what had gone wrong. It had tried to help by finding a plot nearer to other family members but, in so doing, the correct processes were not followed and the Council prepared the wrong plot. The Council offered £250 for Mr X’s distress.
  4. Mr X says £250 is inadequate. He thinks the Council should refund all, or 75%, of the £6000 costs.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because the Council has offered a fair remedy. It explained what went wrong, the reason for the change of plot, apologised and offered £250. This is a proportionate response and one that is consistent with the Ombudsman’s guidance. Mr X was caused distress on what was already a difficult and upsetting day. But, he was given the option of proceeding with plot one if he did not want to wait, he has not suffered a financial loss, and the mistake was rectified as quickly as possible. Mr X would like between £4500 to £6000 but this is much higher that the Ombudsman would ask a council to pay in recognition of distress.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because the Council has offered a fair remedy.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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