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Manchester City Council (20 008 091)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 22 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Council was at fault for missing Mr X’s bin collections for part of October 2020. It has already accepted fault, explained why the collections were missed, apologised, and improved its practice. These actions have already remedied Mr X’s injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, complains that the Council failed to collect his bins, and those of his neighbours, for a month. He says the Council told him there would be extra collections to make up for the missed collections, but these did not happen. He says the Council only acknowledged some of the missed collections, not all of them. He says the Council’s explanation – that there were not enough workers on the collection crew – did not explain why other bins on his street were collected.
  2. Mr X says he and his neighbours were caused a great deal of stress from rubbish piling up outside their homes. He says the Council should compensate all of them, and should take action to ensure the collection are not missed again.

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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. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
  2. We may investigate complaints made on behalf of someone else if they have given their consent. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26A(1), as amended)
  3. We may investigate matters coming to our attention during an investigation, if we consider that a member of the public who has not complained may have suffered an injustice as a result. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26D and 34E, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information from Mr X and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s publication, ‘Guidance on good practice: remedies’.
  3. Mr X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

What happened?

  1. At the beginning of October 2020 the Council missed Mr X’s fortnightly bin collection. Mr X told the Council about this, and it collected the bins two days later.
  2. A fortnight later, the Council missed Mr X’s bin collection again. Mr X told the Council, and it agreed to collect the bins three days later – but it failed to do so.
  3. Mr X complained to the Council about the missed collections. He said the Council should pay him compensation for ‘breach of oral contract’.
  4. The Council answered Mr X’s complaint, apologised, and said it would collect his bins on 24 October. However, again, it failed to do so.
  5. The Council collected Mr X’s bins on its usual collection day at the end of October.
  6. Mr X complained again, and said the Council had failed to explain why it had not collected his bins for the month of October, or why it had collected other bins on his street, but not his or those of four of his neighbours. He asked for compensation again.
  7. The Council responded, accepted it had missed Mr X’s bin collections, and apologised. It said the coronavirus lockdown had meant its contractor was dealing with many staff absences at a time when more people were at home, and therefore more waste was being presented for collection. It said this meant agency staff – who did not have the same knowledge of collection rounds as the usual staff – were dealing with the increased workload.
  8. The Council said its contractor had issued its crew with a photograph of the location of Mr X’s and his neighbours’ bins, and it expected future collections to be more reliable. It said it did not consider compensation to be appropriate.
  9. Mr X complained to the Ombudsman about his own bin collections, and those of his neighbours. However, he did not provide consent from the neighbours for him to make the complaint on their behalf.

My findings

  1. The Council has accepted fault for the missed collections, has apologised, and has explained to Mr X how it intends to prevent similar failures in future. This means the remaining questions are:
    • Has the Council properly remedied Mr X’s injustice?
    • Did Mr X’s neighbours – who have neither complained nor given Mr X consent to complain for them, but who allegedly had bin collections missed as well – suffer an injustice which may warrant a remedy from the Council?
  2. Although Mr X describes a month’s worth of missed collections, many of those were extra collections arranged in response to his complaints. Given that his bins were collected at the beginning and the end of October 2020, he only actually missed one of his usual fortnightly collections.
  3. The Council was clearly at fault for its missed bin collections. However, I have considered the Ombudsman’s guidance on remedies and decided the Council’s explanation, apology and proposed actions – which led to an improvement in practice – were satisfactory remedies for Mr X’s injustice.
  4. With this in mind (and given that they will have already benefitted from the Council’s practice improvements) none of Mr X’s neighbours suffered an injustice significant enough to warrant a remedy from the Council.
  5. Because of this, the Council does not need to take any further action on Mr X’s complaint.

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Final decision

  1. The Council was at fault for missing Mr X’s bin collections for part of October 2020. It has already accepted fault, explained why the collections were missed, apologised, and improved its practice. These actions have already remedied
    Mr X’s injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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