The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr B complains about the Council’s delay in addressing a flooding problem and in responding to his complaint. The Ombudsman has discontinued its investigation as Mr B has made a claim for compensation to the Council for the same issues. This claim is still being investigated by the Council’s insurance department and it is better placed to deal with the claim.
- Mr B says works carried out to a school building near his house have caused flooding to his property. He complains about the Council’s delay in addressing the problem and its delay in answering his complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- Before proceeding to investigate, the Ombudsman has to be satisfied that the person affected or their representative has brought the matter to the notice of the Council and that the Council has been afforded a reasonable opportunity to investigate the matter and respond. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(5))
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), 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 have discussed the complaint with Mr B and the Council and have considered the documents they have sent and their responses to the draft decision.
What I found
- Works were carried out to a school building near Mr B’s house in 2014. Mr B said this resulted in flooding to his and his neighbours’ properties. Mr B complained to the Council about the flooding in July and August 2016.
- The Council received several compensation claims relating to the flooding from other home owners and instructed solicitors to deal with the claims. It told Mr B that it could not reply to his complaint because of the ongoing claims.
- Mr B made further complaints December 2017 and January 2018 about the delay in responding to his 2016 complaint. The Council replied in January 2018 and said the delay was caused by a delay in obtaining various expert reports.
- Mr B said he wanted his complaint to be considered at stage 2 of the complaints process as he was not satisfied with the response. He said he wanted further answers about what was being done to address the problem and compensation for the delay in addressing the flooding problem and in answering his complaint. He said he suffered three years of stress and anxiety because of the problem.
- The Council replied and logged his complaint as a claim for compensation. It said it would be dealt with by its insurance section alongside the other claims.
- Mr B came to the Ombudsman. He complained about the delay in resolving the flooding problem and in responding to his complaint.
- The Council sent a detailed letter to the Ombudsman in June 2018. It accepted there had been a delay and explained why this had occurred. It said the expert report dated November 2017 identified two likely causes of the flooding problem. It tendered for a contractor and the works were started in May 2018 and completed in June 2018.
- The Council said it hoped these works had addressed the problem but said it needed a period of monitoring through a number of seasons with variable rainfall to be certain.
- The Council held a meeting with Mr B on 27 June 2018 to explain the position.
- I had a further discussion with the Council. I wanted to know when the Council would make a decision on Mr B’s compensation claim. The Council said it could not give an exact date as it could not settle any claims unless it was certain that the underlying problem had been resolved. The unusual dry weather meant that it had not been able to test whether the works that were done had resolved the problem.
- Mr B said what he wanted to achieve from taking his complaint to the Ombudsman was for the Council to communicate its findings and provide proposals for a solution to the flooding without delay. It appears that this has happened although this can only be confirmed after a period of monitoring. Mr B said he also wanted acknowledgement of fault in the delay and compensation for what he suffered for almost three years.
- Mr B’s complaint to the Ombudsman is broadly similar to his stage two complaint / claim for compensation to the Council. The remedy he seeks is the same. As the Insurance Department and the Council’s solicitors are still investigating his complaint and his claim, I will discontinue my investigation. The Insurance Department and the solicitors are better placed to decide on the matter. I cannot investigate a matter which is still being investigated by the Council.
- I have discontinued the investigation as the Council is still investigating Mr B’s complaint and his claim for compensation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman