Ashfield District Council (18 012 719)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 07 Jan 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about a missed recycling collection and request for a larger bin. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council and insufficient evidence of injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I refer to as Mr & Mrs X and Mrs Y, complain about a missed recycling collection and that the Council will not give them a larger rubbish bin. They also say the recycling leaflet did not alert them to information on the back of the leaflet and the Council delayed publicising new rules.

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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 an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I considered information on the Council’s website about its waste and recycling policy and comments the complainants made in response to a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. The policy says the Council will, on the first occasion of contaminated recycling, empty the bin but leave a note warning the resident that they have contaminated the recycling.
  2. The Council provides a larger rubbish bin to households of at least six people.
  3. The Council’s contractor is not able to handle every type of plastic. The Council provides information which explains what items people can put in the recycling bin.

What happened

  1. The crew declined to take the complainants’ recycling on one occasion in October. This was because it contained a plastic item which the contractor does not take. The complainants say this was the first incident so the crew should have taken the recycling. The complainants immediately reported the missed collection. The complainants also say the Council had changed the recycling rules but had not told people about the new rules.
  2. An officer visited. He explained why the recycling had not been taken. He removed the offending plastic items and gave the complainants more information about what they can recycle.
  3. Mr & Mrs X, and Mrs Y, complained. They said the recycling leaflet did not encourage people to look at the rear of the leaflet. They asked for a larger rubbish bin to accommodate the plastic they cannot recycle. In response the Council agreed that the recycling rules can be complicated and the Council is working to make the rules as clear as possible. It said that the crews are instructed to check the recycling and to leave any contaminated recycling unless it is the first offence. An officer visited and explained the complainants do not qualify for a larger rubbish bin.
  4. The complainants are dissatisfied with the Council’s response and want compensation.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation for the following reasons.
  2. Missed collections and annoying, frustrating and inconvenient. However, the impact of one missed collection does not represent a level of injustice which requires an investigation by the Ombudsman. This applies even if this was the first incident and the crew should have emptied the bin and/or if the Council had delayed explaining new rules. In addition, not alerting people to information on the back of a leaflet is not something that requires intervention from the Ombudsman.
  3. The Council’s decision not to give the complainants a bigger bin is consistent with the policy. This is because there are less than six people in the complainants’ household. There is no suggestion of fault by the Council and no reason to start an investigation. The Ombudsman does not act as an appeal body. He cannot intervene simply because a council makes a decision that someone disagrees with.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault and insufficient evidence of injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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