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West Lancashire Borough Council (18 017 307)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 25 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about changes to the recycling scheme and a charge for new bins. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council and insufficient evidence of injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Ms X, complain that the Council want her to pay £25 for a new recycling bin.

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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 the publicity the Council issued about the new scheme and comments Ms X made in response to a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. A new scheme started in June. Existing garden waste subscribers had to sign up for a new brown bin. They could then use the existing green bin (previously used for garden waste) for paper and card. People who did not have the garden waste service had to apply for a free green bin before 4 June. People also needed to apply, before 4 June, for a free blue bin for glass, cans and plastic. The Council stopped emptying the blue boxes from June. Charges were due to apply for new bins from 4 June.

What happened

  1. The Council issued press releases in March and June about the new recycling scheme. The Council included information about the new scheme, and the requirement to ask for new bins by June, with the council tax bills issued in March 2018. It also sent a leaflet to every house in April. The information explained there would be a charge for new bins from 4 June. The Council put information about the new scheme on its website.
  2. In June the Council extended the provision of free bins until July. It later extended this free provision until the end of October.
  3. The new scheme started in June. In December Ms X contacted the Council to complain the crew had stopped emptying her blue boxes. The Council explained that it was no longer collecting from the boxes and she would to pay £25 for a green bin and/or a blue bin.
  4. Ms X complains about the charge. She did not receive any information about the new scheme. She does not receive local papers and rarely has any reason to go to the Council’s website. Ms X wants a blue bin but does not think she should have to pay the £25 charge.


  1. Ms X is aggrieved by being asked to pay for something she would have received for free. If she had seen the publicity she would have applied for a blue bin and the Council would have supplied it without a charge. However, while I appreciation Ms X’s annoyance, and I do not question that she was unaware of the new scheme, I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. This is because it publicised the change by sending information direct to every household, with the council tax information and through a leaflet, it also put information in the press and on its website. Ms X did not see any of the material, but it is hard to see what more the Council could have done to alert people of the need to apply for a free bin before the deadline. In addition, it twice extended the deadline to give people longer to avoid the charge. Ms X can get a bin but will have to pay the charge. The Ombudsman does not act as an appeal body. He cannot intervene simply because a council makes a decision that someone disagrees with.
  2. I also will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of injustice. This is because a dispute over £25 is not serious enough to warrant an investigation.

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Final decision

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

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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