Privacy settings

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Cumbria County Council (18 016 314)

Category : Environment and regulation > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 18 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint that the Council is liable for flood damage to the complainant’s property. This is because it is reasonable to expect the complainant to pursue a remedy via the courts.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs B, says the Council is liable for the damage caused to her property by a flood in 2017, because it was aware the drains were blocked since 2013 but it had not investigated the problem.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered:
    • Mrs B’s complaint to the Ombudsman;
    • The Council’s 7 December 2018 complaint response;
    • Mrs B’s comments on a draft version of this statement.

Back to top

What I found

  1. If Mrs B believes the Council has been negligent and is liable for damage to her property, then it is open to her to pursue the matter further through the courts. With reference to paragraph 3 above, because Mrs B has a legal remedy, her complaint would normally fall outside the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.
  2. I have discretion to investigate such matters, and I appreciate Mrs B says she cannot afford to go to court as she has spent her savings on repairing the property after the flood.
  3. But adjudication on negligence and liability disputes would usually involve making decisions on contested questions of fact and law, which require the more stringent and structured procedures of civil litigation for their proper determination. The Ombudsman cannot determine liability for negligence. Only insurers or the courts can do this.
  4. And, only a court could determine what action must be taken if the Council is liable for the damage. The Ombudsman has no powers to enforce such a remedy.
  5. On balance, I consider it would be reasonable for Mrs B to use pursue a court remedy, so the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to investigate her complaint.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs B’s complaint. This is because, on balance, it is reasonable to expect Mrs B to pursue the matter in court.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page