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Medway Council (16 015 185)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 22 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X has complained about refuse collection vehicles driving on to her private driveway. There is fault with how the Council has dealt with Mrs X’s concerns about the refuse collections.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X has complained about refuse collection vehicles driving on to the private driveway she shares with three other properties. Mrs X is also unhappy with how the Council has dealt with her complaint.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered all the information from Mrs X and the Council including its response to my enquires.
  2. A copy of this decision was sent in draft to Mrs X and the Council. I have considered the comments received in response.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X lives on a private driveway. She shares the driveway with the residents of three other properties and they are all responsible for maintaining the drive. Mrs X has complained to the Council about the refuse collection company driving its vehicles on to the private driveway during collections. She says there is no need for the vehicles to enter the private drive and it is not designed to cope with the weight of such heavy vehicles. Mrs X is concerned the drive may collapse and says the contents of the refuse vehicles often spill on to her drive and leaves stains.
  2. Councils have a duty to collect household waste free of charge. In this case, the Council contracts a third party to collect waste in its area. However, it is still responsible for the service and any issues that may occur. After Mrs X complained to the Council it contacted the waste collection company and asked that it remind its drivers not to enter the private driveway. An officer from the Council also tried to visit Mrs X and a supervisor attended a collection in December 2016. After Mrs X raised further concerns, the Council looked at the vehicle tracking data for a collection in January 2017. The Council says the vehicles did not enter the private land on either of these occasions. It did note that the rear of the vehicle hung over the driveway, but said the wheels did not go on to it.
  3. Mrs X is unhappy with the Council’s response. She says it has ignored the issues she has actually complained about and failed to properly investigate the matter. She agrees there are occasions where the back of the refuse vehicle overhangs the driveway, but says her complaint is about the front of the vehicle driving on to it. She also argues that the tracking data does not include details for all the collections and only shows the route the vehicle took and not whether it went on to her private drive. Mrs X provided photographs to show the vehicles driving on to the private driveway.
  4. While I agree the tracking data may not clearly show if the vehicles entered the private driveway, I am satisfied the Council has taken some action in response to Mrs X’s concerns. However, its investigations do seem limited and have not been sufficient to resolve the issues Mrs X has raised. This has caused Mrs X injustice as she has needed to contact the Council on many occasions to report the same problems.
  5. I have also considered the other concerns raised by Mrs X about how the Council has dealt with her complaint. The Council has accepted that it made a mistake in its response to Mrs X as it incorrectly said it tried to visit her in November 2016 but this actually happened in December. While I understand this particular mistake may have led to some confusion, I cannot say it has caused Mrs X any significant injustice.

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Agreed action

  1. The Council has agreed that it will request that the refuse collection company take photographs to show where its vehicles stop during collections over a six week period. It has also agreed to consider financial penalties against the collection company (upon receipt of evidence) should the issue continue in the future.

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Final decision

  1. There is fault with how the Council has investigated the concerns raised by Mrs X.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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