Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 20 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complains the Council caused distress and alarm when it sent a letter about a possible statutory noise nuisance to her address. The Council has apologised for this error. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because further investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome. And we cannot achieve the outcome she is seeking.
- The Council sent a letter to Mrs X’s address accusing the owner of a possible statutory noise nuisance. She says this caused her great alarm and distress. The Council then admitted it sent the letter to her in error and apologised. Mrs X is not satisfied with an apology and wants a reduction in her council tax or a payment of £1000.00
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 could add to any previous investigation by the Council
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mrs X. This includes her complaints to the Council and its responses.
What I found
- The Council sent a letter alleging a possible statutory noise nuisance to Mrs X’s address. She says she was very alarmed by this and needed medication to help her sleep. She says she went to stay with a friend because she was so worried. She also says she was advised to visit the Council offices to speak to someone.
- Mrs X visited the Council offices. She did not have an appointment and there was no one available to see her. She provided her information to the reception officer and was told she would receive a telephone call the next day. She did not receive a call until over a week later. the officer arranged to visit her at home
- During the visit, the officer admitted he had made a mistake and written to the wrong address. Mrs X says she asked for a reduction in her council tax to reflect the error. The office advised she would receive an apology.
- the Council write to Mrs X formally apologising the sending the letter to her. It said the error occurred because the officer who dealt with a noise complaint had written the address down incorrectly.
- Mrs X was not satisfied with the apology. She complained to the Council. And demanded £1000 as a final settlement. If the amount was not paid within 30 days Mrs X said she would take legal action and apply for costs including court fees, out of pocket expenses plus barrister fees of £600 per day.
- The Council write to Mrs X. It again apologised for the error but confirmed it would not reduce her council tax.
- Mrs X wrote again. Again, she demanded £100 within 30 days or she would instruct her solicitors. The Council responded advising her it would not be making any payments to her. It advised of her right to complain to the Ombudsman.
- The Council has acknowledged that it wrote to Mrs X by mistake. And this mistake was caused because an officer incorrectly addressed the letter. It has apologised for this.
- The Council confirmed it would not reduce Mrs X’s council tax because of this. This is correct, as reductions in council tax are statutory matters and the Council does not have discretion to reduce payments to resolve complaints.
- The Council has decided not to pay Mrs X £1000 to settle her complaint. This is a decision it is entitled to make. It has formally apologised to her in writing. I accept that she found the matter alarming and distressing, however I consider the apology a suitable remedy to her complaint.
- I will not investigate this complaint. This is because I consider an apology to be a suitable remedy to Mrs X’s complaint. Also, further investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome. And we cannot achieve the outcome she is seeking.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman