The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complained about the procedures the Council has in place for the use of pest control poisons. The Council has adequate procedures in place and there is no evidence the Council’s actions have caused Mrs X an injustice. We have stopped the investigation as there is nothing else to be achieved by pursuing the matter further.
- Following an incident in a neighbour’s garden, Mrs X complained the Council failed to ensure adequate procedures were in place for the use of pest control poisons. As a result of this Mrs X says they were inappropriately used at an adjacent property, harming a pet. She is concerned that without proper controls pets or people may be harmed.
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:
- 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, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information provided by Mrs X and have spoken to her on the phone I have considered the Council’s responses to Mrs X and have spoken to a Council officer.
- I gave the Council and Mrs X the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- In early 2018 a neighbour told Mrs X they had seen rats in their garden. Another neighbour, who is a Council employee, took action to address this by laying bait. A neighbour’s pet became ill having eaten some of the bait.
- Mrs X complained to the Council who investigated the employee’s actions through its internal procedures. The Council advised the employee was not acting in their official role. Mrs X complained to the Ombudsman as she had continuing concerns about who in the Council had access to pest control poisons and how they were used.
- I spoke to a Council officer who said, since March 2018, the Council has restructured its teams and roles have changed. This reduced the number of officers involved in pest control. There are now only two officers who have access to pest control poisons which are stored securely in a locked room. One is responsible for pest control. The other officer is responsible for monitoring and stock control and can respond to emergency pest control work. Both are appropriately qualified.
- The Council investigated the actions of the Council officer through its internal procedures. It considered the officer was not acting in their capacity as a Council employee at the time. The Ombudsman looks at the administrative functions of the Council. As the officer was not acting in their capacity as a Council employee the Ombudsman has no power to investigate their actions.
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints of fault leading to injustice and we look to remedy the injustice. There is insufficient evidence of injustice to Mrs X to warrant any further investigation of her complaint. Mrs X raised concerns about the Council’s procedures which may have a wider public interest. However I am satisfied, the Council has sufficient procedures in place and has adequate controls in place over the use of pest poisons. Therefore I do not see there is anything else I could achieve by further investigation of Mrs X’s complaint.
- I have stopped investigating the complaint as there is insufficient injustice caused to Mrs X and there is nothing else I can achieve by pursuing the matter further.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman