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London Borough of Tower Hamlets (19 018 276)

Category : Environment and regulation > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 24 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the quality of street cleaning in the complainant’s area. This is because he is unlikely to find fault by the Council. The complainant can also take the matter to court if she believes the Council has failed to meet its statutory duty.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Miss X, has complained about the quality of street cleaning in the area where she lives.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered Miss X’s complaint and the Council’s response. I invited Miss X to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

Environmental Protection Act 1990

  1. The Council has a duty to ensure that the highway or road is kept clean from litter. However, this is not an absolute duty and section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act says councils should keep the road clean as far as it is practicable.

What happened

  1. Miss X contacted the Council to complain about the quality of street cleaning in her area, including the street where she lives. In response to Miss X’s complaint, the Council said the streets were regularly swept. It monitored the areas Miss X complained about and its inspections found that the litter levels in these areas were usually acceptable. On the occasions when it found fly tipping or higher than acceptable litter levels, the Council arranged for additional cleaning.
  2. Miss X is unhappy with the Council’s response. She says it has not resolved the problem and believes it should take further steps to ensure the service is up to standard.

Assessment

  1. I will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the quality of street cleaning in the area where she lives. This is because I am unlikely to find fault by the Council. If Miss X believes the Council has failed to fulfil its statutory duty, she can take the matter to court.
  2. I understand Miss X has said the Council has not done enough to ensure the streets in her area are properly cleaned. However, the Council’s duty to keep the streets clean from litter is not absolute and it is for the Council to decide how to use its resources to carry out street cleaning. The Council has also taken steps in response to Miss X’s complaint to ensure additional cleaning is carried out when necessary. Therefore, it is unlikely I would find fault by the Council.
  3. If Miss X believes the Council has failed to comply with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act, she can serve notice on the Council and take the matter to court. If the court finds that the Council has not met its duty it can make an order requiring the Council to take action.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because he is unlikely to find fault and Miss X can take the matter to court if she believes the Council has failed to meet its statutory duty.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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