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London Borough of Sutton (17 011 183)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 26 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Miss X complains that the Council should have handled changes to her bin collections service better and should have responded quicker to her complaint about the issues she raised. The Council was at fault. It has taken action to reach an acceptable resolution with Miss X.

The complaint

  1. Miss X complained that:
  • When she complained that her bins were not being collected, the Council suggested she used communal bins, a suggestion she did not agree with. The Council then failed to deal with her complaint about this issue.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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 spoke with the complainant and made initial enquiries with the Council.

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What I found

  1. In April 2017, Miss X started complaining to the Council as the bins contractor employed by the Council had missed a number of collections. Miss X complained about missed collections on 9 May 2017, 26 May 2017, 2 June 2017 and 5 June 2017. She complained that her recycling bin had not been delivered on 2 June 2017. The Council records show that the bin collection address had been incorrect. Her complaint was passed to the contact centre.
  2. On 27 June 2017, the Council advised Miss X to use communal bins across the road from her house instead. Miss X said initially she accepted this but very quickly contacted the Council again to say it was not an acceptable solution.
  3. The Council responded to her complaint on 20 July 2017 but Miss X did not feel the Council had properly addressed her complaint points. The letter did not address, for instance, her complaint about having to use communal bins. She continued to complain.
  4. She contacted a senior officer on 25 July 2017, complaining about what she viewed as a ‘automated’ complaint response from the Council. She received a response from the Council asking her to contact the Council by phone to clarify her complaint further.
  5. Miss X re-sent her complaint. The Council asked for her phone number on 2 August 2018 but by 18 August 2018 no one had called her to discuss the complaint further. The Council say it has no record that she provided the correct details. In any event, Miss X complained again on 2 September 2017. She received no response and on 6 October 2017, having received no reply, contacted the Ombudsman.
  6. On 26 October 2017, the Council sent Miss X a stage one response to her complaint. The letter did not tell Miss X who she could refer her complaint to if she was unhappy with the Council’s response.
  7. The Council has accepted that it failed to advise Miss X how to progress her complaint further if she was unhappy. An officer from the Council visited Miss X after receiving our enquiries. The Council has now agreed a resolution with Miss X that she finds acceptable.

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Findings

  1. It is clear from a basic chronology of events that the Council was at fault in delaying to address Miss X’s complaints about her bin collection service and in failing to tell her how to progress her complaint further. However, after the Ombudsman’s enquiries, the Council responded quickly to reach a resolution with Miss X. Miss X did not want to pursue the matter further and as any outstanding injustice has been addressed I will not be seeking further remedy.

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Final decision

  1. Miss X says the Council should have handled changes to her bin collections service better and should have responded quicker to her complaint about the issues she raised. The Council was at fault. It has taken action to reach an acceptable resolution with Miss X. I have therefore completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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