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Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (18 016 915)

Category : Environment and regulation > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 08 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs A’s complaint that there was fault in the way the Council dealt with a litter fixed penalty notice. This is because, now that the Council has rescinded the fixed penalty notice, there is insufficient justification for us to pursue Mrs A’s complaint.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs A, complained there was fault in the way the Council dealt with a litter fixed penalty notice. Mrs A told us she was angry when she received it because she was innocent and she was worried about how she would pay the penalty.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Mrs A provided, including her reply to my draft decision and her video footage and the Council’s responses to her complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mrs A told us during 2018 she received a fine for littering. The officer acting on behalf of the Council said he had seen Mrs A throwing a cigarette butt out of her car window as she entered a car park. Mrs A says she has footage which shows her putting the cigarette in the bin as she arrived. So, she appealed twice giving her reasons and telling the Council she was getting the CCTV footage. She says the Council refused her access to its footage.
  2. In its initial response to Mrs A’s complaint the Council said, having reviewed its footage of the interaction between Mrs A and the officer involved, it found no grounds to rescind the notice. It said Mrs A could make an appointment to view the footage.
  3. Mrs A went to see the Council’s officer. She says she showed the officer her footage. The officer telephoned Mrs A later that day telling her the Council had rescinded the fixed penalty notice. In its final response to Mrs A’s complaint the Council said the fixed penalty notice stated the time it was issued, not the time the officer observed the littering. The Council rescinded the notice because of this time recording error. Mrs A remains aggrieved because the Council failed to refer to the footage of her walking up to the bin and putting her cigarette into it. She says she still feels the Council thinks the fixed penalty notice was justified but she knows the Council issued her with a fine for no reason. She wants the Council to own up if it has made an error. Mrs A told us she wants her name to be cleared, an apology and for it never to happen to anyone else.
  4. In this case the Council has admitted there was an error on the fixed penalty notice so it withdrew it. But the Council did not withdraw it for the reason Mrs A wanted it withdrawn. The Council told Mrs A its enforcement contractor had said it had reviewed its procedures and briefed officers to avoid them making a similar error with the fixed penalty notice in future.
  5. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. Now that the Council has rescinded the fixed penalty notice so it no longer exists, there is insufficient justification for us to pursue Mrs A’s complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman should not investigate this complaint. This is because, now that the Council has rescinded the fixed penalty notice, there is insufficient justification for us to pursue Mrs A’s complaint.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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