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Coventry City Council (17 011 910)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 23 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: It was fault by the Council that it missed several of Mr X’s household waste collections from July to September 2017. This caused Mr X time and trouble requiring a remedy.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains the Council:
      1. has failed to regularly collect his household waste;
      2. will not allow him to report missed bin collections online.
  2. Mr X says in the three months after he moved in to the new-build property in July 2017, the Council only collected his rubbish three times. On the date he complained to the Ombudsman, the Council had not collected his rubbish during the previous five weeks. Mr X says his food waste bin regularly has maggots and he is having to collect other rubbish in his garden. Mr X says the Council’s online system will not allow him to report missed collections since a new bin collection scheme came in.
  3. Mr X wants the Council to collect his bin every week, or give him another way to get rid of his rubbish.

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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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), 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. As part of the investigation, I have:
    • considered the complaint and the documents provided by Mr X;
    • made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided;
    • discussed the issues with Mr X;
    • issued a draft decision, inviting replies from Mr X and the Council, and considered replies received.

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What I found

  1. Councils have a statutory duty to have systems in place for the collection of waste from residents’ homes in their areas. Mr X’s complaint is that the Council failed to collect his household waste on several occasions between July and September 2017.
  2. In response to Mr X’s complaint about missed bin collections, and to my enquiries, the Council says:
    • the missed collections have been due to the roads being blocked by building machinery, deliveries of construction materials and workers’ parked vehicles. This has often prevented the bin lorries getting past to make the collections.
    • officers visited Mr X’s road to see if they could organise a ‘pull location’. This is a place where residents could put their bins on collection day which the bin lorry could definitely reach. Due to the amount of traffic in the area and the winding nature of the roads, the Council could not identify a safe location.
    • if staff miss a collection, they have endeavoured to send a crew back later in the week. Problems with the bin collection service’s capacity has meant return visits have not been possible until Saturdays. By then the number of cars on the road has increased because of residents’ parking at the weekends.
    • officers have been working with the property developer to try to make sure the road is clear enough for the bin lorry to get through.

Missed collections

  1. The Council has sent a record of missed domestic waste collections on Mr X’s street due to problems with bin lorry access. One incident is undated. One happened in the first week of June, then two in mid-July, and two more in early and late August. The record then ends. This information tallies with and supports Mr X’s reports of missed collections in July and August 2017 which triggered his complaint to the Council.
  2. I cannot tell whether the Council has collected Mr X’s bin after a return visit to the street. The records for missed collections of garden and domestic waste only start in November 2017. The records for the recycling return collections start in December 2017 and do not cover the relevant period. These records do show bin collection staff made return visits most weeks to Mr X’s street. This indicates a significant incidence of missed scheduled collections which would have affected Mr X’s service.
  3. The Council clearly took steps to try to enable the regular bin collections on Mr X’s street. However, it appears this did not result in the Council meeting its duty to collect Mr X’s domestic waste.
  4. I recognise the Council has acted to resolve the issues, but I find on balance that there was fault by the Council here. In making this finding I take into account that the Council has now organised two ‘pull locations’ near Mr X’s house for residents to use. These are on straighter roads which lie to the north and west of Mr X’s street. I consider the Council could have put that system in place sooner in response to Mr X’s concerns, and those of fellow residents. It is more likely than not that this would have prevented the missed collections complained of.
  5. I find this fault led to a significant injustice to Mr X as he was left with uncollected and unhygienic bins for up to five weeks, and the inconvenience of reporting missed collections. I recommend a remedy for this injustice below.

Website and reports from Mr X

  1. I cannot tell from the evidence how often Mr X reported his bin as not being collected. Mr X has stated he tried to do this repeatedly online, but the system would not let him submit a report.
  2. The Council has accepted the website reporting form was not recognising full postal addresses from the postcodes for new roads. So Mr X was likely to have had problems reporting his missed collections using the website. It was fault that the Council’s online reporting system was not working for Mr X.
  3. However, I do not find that fault caused Mr X an injustice. I do not consider Mr X was reliant on the Council’s website to make reports. Mr X had other options allowing him to report missed collections by email or telephone.

Council records

  1. My assessment here shows the Council’s response to the complaint and my investigation of it have been limited by the Council’s records.
  2. It is not clear why the Council has incomplete records of its bin collection service. I consider it is fault that the Council has not been making and keeping those records. This fault does not cause personal injustice to Mr X. Its main impact is on the Council’s ability to set out and give evidence of its past actions in response to complaints. I make a recommendation for the Council on this issue below.

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Agreed action

  1. I recommended the Council:
      1. send a written apology to Mr X for the failures in service in the bin collection service in 2017 and the time and trouble this caused him. The Council should copy in the Ombudsman when it sends the letter; and
      2. if it has not already done so, review its record-keeping system regarding its bin collections. The Council should report back to the Ombudsman with details of its review and how it intends to make these records in future.
  2. The Council has agreed to the above remedy and action. It has agreed to do a) within four weeks of the date of this decision, and do b), including its reporting back to the Ombudsman, within three months of the final decision date.

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Final decision

  1. I have found fault by the Council causing injustice. The Council has agreed the above remedy and action. I consider the complaint resolved and have completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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