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Mole Valley District Council (19 019 485)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s garden waste collection service. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council, and the injustice to Mrs X is not significant enough to warrant an investigation by the Ombudsman.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains the Council failed to collect her garden waste because it said the bin was too heavy. Mrs X is unhappy about a lack of information on the Council’s website about weight limits.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mrs X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the information she provided. I also gave Mrs X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before reaching a final decision on her complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X pays for a fortnightly garden waste collection service. The annual cost of the service is £56.50. Mrs X contacted the Council because her bin was not emptied as scheduled. The Council responded and told Mrs X the bin had not been emptied because it weighed more than 110 kg. The Council said this was often due to soil or wet vegetation in the bin. It was therefore too heavy and could not be loaded onto the vehicle. The Council asked Mrs X to remove any excessively heavy items so the bin could be emptied next time.
  2. Mrs X complained to the Council. Mrs X was unhappy the Council did not publish the 110 kg weight limit. In its responses to Mrs X, the Council referred to the information it had already provided. It said there was information on the Council’s website which says if a bin is too heavy for safe handling, it will not be emptied. It said that weight limits are not advertised on its website because householders cannot be expected to weigh their own bins. Officers had visited Mrs X’s home and they had confirmed the bin was too heavy to move. The Council said that if Mrs X could reduce the weight of the bin it would arrange for it be emptied – rather than Mrs X having to wait until the next scheduled collection.
  3. The Ombudsman does not investigate all the complaints we receive. In deciding whether to investigate we need to consider various tests. These include the likelihood of finding fault, and the injustice caused to the person complaining. We only investigate the complaints we consider the most serious.
  4. I understand Mrs X is frustrated her bin was not emptied and that she had to contact the Council. But the Council has responded to Mrs X’s complaints and provided what I consider to be proportionate and reasonable responses. The Council has explained why it does not publish a weight limit and this is a decision it is entitled to take. Even if it had published such a limit, it seems likely the outcome would have been the same – Mrs X’s bin would not have been emptied.
  5. The Council visited Mrs X’s house to check the bin and its officers agreed it was too heavy. It offered to empty the bin if Mrs X could remove some of its contents. We could never now say whether the bin was too heavy, and how the Council’s staff decided this was the case. On balance, there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council, and we could not add anything to the Council’s response.
  6. I am also not persuaded the issue with Mrs X’s garden waste collection represents a significant enough injustice for us to become involved – each collection costs just over two pounds. An investigation by the Ombudsman is not therefore appropriate.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council, and the injustice to Mrs X is not significant enough to warrant an investigation by the Ombudsman.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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