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London Borough of Waltham Forest (17 018 241)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 20 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms A’s complaint about damage to her car and the way the Council and its contractors have dealt with her complaint. A claim of damage is best considered by the courts. And the Ombudsman will not investigate the Council’s complaints handling as a separate matter.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Ms A, says bin crews have damaged her car when emptying the bins. She has made an insurance claim to the Council’s contractors but they have denied liability. Ms A also complains about the way her claim and complaint have been handled.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
  3. 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 have considered the information Ms A provided when she made her complaint. I sent a draft decision to Ms A and invited comments.

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What I found

  1. Domestic waste collections are carried out by a contractor on behalf of the Council. Ms A says the bin crews have caused damage to her car and she has video recordings to show this. She made a complaint to the Council.
  2. As this is a complaint of damage, the Council passed Ms A’s correspondence to its contractors to consider as an insurance claim. The contractors have denied liability for the damage to Ms A’s car. They reached their decision after viewing CCTV footage from its own vehicle. Ms A then attended the contractors’ offices and showed her own CCTV footage. The contractors reviewed the evidence but still do not accept liability for the damage.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms A’s complaint about the damage because this is a matter best considered by the courts. It is reasonable to expect Ms A to use her right of remedy in the courts. Only the courts can decide if the Council or its contractors are liable to Ms A for the damage to her car. And only the courts can order payment of damages.
  4. Ms A also complains about the way the Council’s contractors have dealt with this matter. Her complaints include delays and the attitude of staff members when she attended their offices.
  5. The Ombudsman has a general discretion to investigate complaints. He will not normally investigate complaints about customer service and complaints handling if he is not investigating the matter that led to the complaint. There are no good reasons for the Ombudsman to investigate the customer service complaints Ms A has raised as a separate issue.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because claims of damage are best considered by the courts. And the Ombudsman will not investigate the Council’s complaints handling as a separate matter.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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