Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 22 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: we will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s investigation into missing postcards Ms X and others sent it asking it to take action to protect bees. There is insufficient evidence of fault and injustice to justify an investigation.
- The complainant, who I have called Ms X, complained that the Council failed to properly investigate what happened to postcards she and others sent it encouraging it to take action to protect bees.
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 injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information provided by Ms X and the Council. I have considered Ms X’s responses to a draft of this decision.
What I found
- In 2017 a charity ran a campaign aimed at encouraging local authorities and others to leave dandelions uncut and so help protect the bee population. The charity created a postcard for people to print and send to their local authorities urging them not to mow or spray roadside verges.
- Ms X paid to have 2,000 postcards printed. She sent her own postcard to the Council and ticked a box asking for a response. The Council found her postcard in a former officer’s drawer, but only after she complained about a lack of response. Ms X knows of at least 25 other postcards that were returned to the Council. Another individual has confirmed that she handed in a postcard.
- Ms X had telephone conversations with at least two officers about the matter, but another officer did not return her calls.
- An officer wrote to Ms X in November 2017. He said he could not say how many postcards had been sent to the Council, but it did receive one from Ms X. He also described how the Council manages the land it is responsible for. This includes a relaxed grass mowing regime in two country parks, on housing amenity grass and on selected areas of highway. It was also involved in the “Pollinating the Peaks” project, run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Ms X said it was irrelevant how many postcards had been sent to the Council: it should ask how many it had received.
- The Council told us it had checked with its post room staff who could recall receiving only one postcard. Ms X said the Council told her it had not received any postcards when she called in June 2017.
- Ms X believes the Council should be more concerned about the missing postcards and should do more to find out what happened to them.
- We will not investigate this complaint.
- Ms X knows that at least 25 postcards were returned to the Council in addition to her own. Another individual has confirmed that she delivered her postcard. However, the Council has only managed to find Ms X’s postcard.
- Ms X believes the Council should do more to investigate what happened to the postcards and is clearly troubled that the Council isn’t more concerned that they cannot be found. But although at least 25 postcards may have been sent to the Council, that is not evidence it actually received them.
- The Council has checked with its post room staff but they can only recall seeing one postcard. It is unlikely that post room staff will make a record of every item of mail they handle. The Council has also checked with some of its officers, as it found Ms X’s postcard in a former officer’s drawer. So in this case, it is unlikely we would find fault with the way the Council investigated the missing postcards.
- In any event, the Council did receive Ms X’s postcard and responded to her, albeit belatedly. So Ms X suffered little personal injustice because of the alleged loss of the postcards. Anyone else who sent the Council a postcard may have suffered a personal injustice if their card was lost. So it would be open to those individuals to make their own complaint about the matter.
- In summary, there is insufficient evidence of fault and personal injustice to justify an investigation.
- We will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault and injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman