The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr Y complained on behalf of Mr X, that the Council failed to repair and maintain the public toilets at Oldham bus station. The Council is not at fault.
- Mr Y complained on behalf of a relative, Mr X. Mr Y complained the Council failed to repair and maintain the public toilets at Oldham bus station. Mr X has a walking disability and struggles to access alternative toilets when he gets off the bus.
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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), 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 read the complaint information provided by Mr Y and Mr X.
- I made enquiries of the Council and considered its response.
- Mr X and the Council had the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- Mr Y says his elderly relative, Mr X visits him by bus twice a year. On the past two occasions Mr X has visited Mr Y, the toilets have been unusable. Mr X complained the lock on one cubicle door was damaged. The other toilet was missing a door. Mr X struggles to walk more than 800 metres and says it can take fifteen minutes to walk to alternative public toilets.
- Mr Y says the toilets are frequently shut for several months at a time. He says it took seven months for the Council to repair the toilet door.
- The Council records all reports of damage and any maintenance work completed on the toilets. In March 2018, the records show the Council closed the toilets because the toilet doors were damaged. New toilet doors were fitted on 24 April 2018. In September 2018 and October 2018, there were two further complaints the toilet door was broken. The Council replaced this, January 2019.
- The records also indicate the toilets frequently block and at times need to be shut as the blockage causes flooding.
- In response to my enquiries the Council said the toilets were frequently damaged because of anti-social behaviour. It tries to repair the toilets as quickly as possible but at times it is necessary to shut them and direct people to other facilities. It says in other locations public toilets have been redesigned to include a café. This means there is a person onsite which helps prevent vandalism. The Council is considering if this would be an option for the toilets at the bus station.
- Mr X visits Oldham two or three times a year. Given how infrequently he uses the public toilets, it is my view the toilets being shut has not caused him a significant injustice.
- I have considered whether there is a wider injustice to the public if the toilets are not properly maintained. The Council delayed by four months in repairing the toilet door; however, I fall short of finding this fault. There are other public toilets 400 metres from the bus station which the public can use when the toilets are closed.
- Even if I were to find fault with the Council, I would be unable suggest a worthwhile outcome. The Council’s response indicates it is trying to keep the toilets in the best state of repair possible.
- There was no fault in the Council’s actions therefore I have completed my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman