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London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (18 008 572)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complains about the Council’s waste collection service and its response to his complaint about this matter. The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint because it is unlikely we can add to the investigation already carried out by the Council and an investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. Mr B says he had problems with the collection of his domestic waste and recycling and that his complaint about the matter was not dealt with properly by the Council. He says he wants those responsible to be dismissed and a part refund of his council tax to be made to him.

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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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. In considering the complaint I spoke to Mr B and reviewed the information he and the Council provided. I gave Mr B the opportunity to comment on my draft decision and considered the comments he made.

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What I found

  1. In May 2018 Mr B rang the Council to complain that his domestic rubbish had not been properly collected. The person he spoke to told him he needed a translator. Mr B says this person was aggressive and put the telephone down on him and that when he called back to speak to a supervisor he was not put through.
  2. Mr B tried to contact the Council by telephone and email but was unsuccessful. He made a formal complaint in June about these matters and said that he and others in his road had not a recycling collection for 3 months.
  3. In July, the Council responded to him by email having listened to a recording of the first call. It confirmed the adviser had been trying to explain that the missed collection could not be reported yet as there is a specific timeframe for this which falls between 10pm on the day of collection until 6pm the next working day. The adviser lost the call when trying to transfer Mr B as he had requested. However, the Council upheld Mr B’s complaint because it acknowledged the adviser had spoken to him in a discourteous way and it apologised for this.
  4. With regard to the missed collections, it said its records only showed Mr B had reported one missed recycling collection. It told him how to report problems online rather than using the phone as this would be quicker and lead to a better service. It appears Mr B did not receive this July email when it was first sent and subsequently a further copy was sent to him.
  5. Further problems with the collection service led to an additional complaint by Mr B which the Council addressed in November and December. It told him its aim was to clear all outstanding waste within 48 working hours and that it had checked that his recycling collection was currently up to date but that it had placed his property on the monitoring list for 4 weeks to identify where any problems with the service might lie. It confirmed it would be unable to offer him a council tax refund.
  6. There was confusion by the Council about which stage of its complaints procedure it was responding to Mr B. However, in early February 2019 it further addressed his complaint by noting that a change to the collection point from spring 2018 had coincided with problems in the service and that while it did not know why this was, it had extended the monitoring period until the end of February to ensure the return of a normal service. Since this time there have been no further problems.

Assessment

  1. Mr B’s complaint about the way he was spoken to by the adviser was upheld by the Council and an apology given for this. I note the Council has confirmed the officer’s tone will be addressed during future customer care training.
  2. The Council did become muddled about what stage it was addressing Mr B’s complaint at and this would have caused him confusion. However, it has apologised for this too and, as the service is currently working as it should, I do not consider an investigation by the Ombudsman is warranted. Moreover, the outcomes sought by Mr B are not ones the Ombudsman would seek even if significant fault was found.
  3. In responding to my draft decision Mr B has indicated there was a problem with a recent collection and if this is the case he can use the Council’s online system to report this.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we can add to the investigation already carried out by the Council and an investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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