Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 18 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains the Council cannot prove it fully emptied his cesspit despite charging for the service. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. It is unlikely we can add to the investigation carried out by the Council. And further investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome.
- Mr X complains the Council failed to provide proof that it fully emptied his cesspit despite charging him for the service. He wants proof before he pays the bill.
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:
- it is unlikely we would find fault
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council
- 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 considered information provided by Mr X and the Council. Mr X commented on the draft version of this decision.
What I found
- In September the Council’s cesspit and septic tank services emptied Mr X’s cesspit. it charged him for the service, and he says he paid the invoice in October.
- Mr X says he had to contact the Council to empty his cesspit again in November as it was overflowing. The tanker attended his home and the Council says it emptied the cesspit.
- Mr X asked the Council to prove it had fully emptied the cesspit in September, as he is concerned that it should be full again after about two and half months.
- The Council advised Mr X that significant rainfall in the area could have contributed to his cesspit refilling so quickly.
- It also provided a log sheet which shows the tanker was emptied at the Severn Trent depot on 30 August. It confirms the tanker was not used again over the weekend. The next time the tanker was used was to visit Mr X’s home on 2 September. This is supported by spreadsheets showing the tanker’s movements and a screenshot of the tanker located at Mr X’s home timestamped 08.31 on 2 September.
- The driver posted a ticket through Mr X’s door on the day, stating he had emptied 18,000 litres from the cesspit and the charge was £357.66.
- The Council has offered to waive the outstanding charge for the service in November and remove Mr X from its service. He is free to source an alternative provider.
- I understand that Mr X is concerned the tanker may not have been empty when it arrived at his property on 2 September, and therefore would not have been able to fully empty his cesspit. And, therefore he had to have the pit emptied again in November.
- I also understand that he does not consider the information provided by the Council to be proof the tanker was indeed empty when it arrived at his home on 2 September.
- The Ombudsman’s decisions are made on the balance of probability (‘more likely than not’). Neither party must prove what happened using the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Having reviewed the information provided by the Council I consider it unlikely that we can add to the investigation provided by the Council. Or that further investigation will lead to a different outcome.
- I will not investigate this complaint. It is unlikely that we can add to the investigation provided by the Council. Or that further investigation will lead to a different outcome.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman