Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 20 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss B complained about refuse collection problems. The Council was at fault for failing to collect the refuse as arranged about seven times. The Council is now collecting the refuse normally.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Miss B, complained the Council repeatedly failed to collect her refuse.
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’. 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)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information Miss B provided. I made written enquiries of the Council and considered its response, which I discussed with Miss B by telephone. I gave the Council and Miss B the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
What I found
- The Council is legally obliged to collect household waste and recyclable waste (‘recyclable waste’ means waste capable of being recycled or composted). (Environmental Protection Act 1990, sections 45(1) and 45A) The Council provides fortnightly collections of recycling, non-recyclable waste and garden waste.
- Miss B lives in a small cul-de-sac. She says from July 2017 the recycling was sometimes not collected, which she states she reported online but the Council said it did not have records of this. Further investigation is unlikely to enable me to reach a clear enough view on this point.
- The Council and Miss B both report that, from November 2017 to January 2018 there were failures to collect the recycling and occasionally some of the other refuse. The Council’s and Miss B’s records do not match concerning the dates of these missed collections. However, overall, they both state there were about seven instances of problems with the fortnightly collections in just over two months. When this happens, the Council aims to return and collect the missed refuse within one day. It accepts it did not always do this.
- The Council states the problem was due to parked cars preventing the refuse collection lorry entering Miss B’s street. I understand such parking is not by the residents of Miss B’s street, who have off-road parking, but by residents of a nearby street. The Council says its refuse collection crew tried to identify the cars’ owners (largely unsuccessfully), left postcards explaining the problems on cars whose owners it could not find and delivered letters about the problem to houses in both streets. The Council also asked residents of Miss B’s street to bring their bins to the end of the street for collection as a short-term measure.
- Miss B complained to the Ombudsman in late January. She reports that, since then, there have been no refuse collection problems and the collection lorry has entered her street and collected the bins normally, without residents having to take their bins to the end of the street any more.
- Miss B says that, as far as she can tell, the car parking situation has been the same on most of the occasions the lorry has entered the street recently as it was on the previous occasions when the Council claimed access was obstructed. So she does not believe access was definitely obstructed on the previous occasions.
- The Council is confident the problem is now resolved. It states if there are more problems in Miss B’s street in the future, it will consider seeking parking restrictions or using a smaller refuse collection lorry (it has recently ordered two more of these). The Council apologised to Miss B for the disruption in the period when there were missed collections.
- Any refuse collection system might have occasional problems. However, the number of problems between November 2017 and January 2018 is significant. I consider the Council was at fault for repeatedly failing to collect the refuse as arranged then. This evidently caused Miss B some frustration and disruption.
- As the problem now seems resolved, I consider the steps the Council has taken, and its apology to Miss B for the inconvenience, have remedied matters adequately. I do not need to recommend any further action.
- The problem has now been resolved so there is nothing further for me to achieve. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman