Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 23 Nov 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There was fault by the Council as Ms X did not receive the expected service from her garden waste collection. Her official complaint on the matter was not dealt with according to the Council’s procedure but the Council did offer an apology, a partial refund and a free year’s collection. The Council agreed to refund an additional payment made by Ms X as a result of the Ombudsman’s investigation to complete the remedy for the injustice caused to her.
- The complainant, who I shall call Ms X, complains there were delays in the Council’s responses to her official complaint and that she did not receive a written reply to her stage 1 complaint.
- Ms X also complains that only one out of two payments for her garden waste bin were refunded and that she occurred extra costs disposing of refuse because of service failure. Ms X also complains the Council has not cut back overgrown vegetation behind her garden fence.
What I have investigated
- I have investigated Ms X’s complaints about her garden waste collection and the Council’s complaints process. The final section of this statement contains my reason for not investigating the rest of the complaint.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the papers submitted by Ms X and discussed the complaint with her.
- I considered the Council’s comments about the complaint and any supporting documents it provided.
- Ms X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.
What I found
- The Council has said that it did not provide a written reply to Ms X’s stage one complaint. However, the Council says it phoned Ms X, apologised and said it would refund her the cost of the garden waste scheme for 2020/2021. So, although the Council was at fault, it did not cause Ms X a significant injustice as she did receive a response. Ms X says she did not get a phone call but did get an email.
- Ms X says that she paid £57.50 for garden waste collection in June 2020. She complains there were problems with collections and she did not receive the service she expected so she had to pay for a private contractor to clear the garden waste.
- The Council said to Ms X the £57.50 payment was assigned to 2018/2019 and she would have to pay again for 2020. Ms X paid a further £60 in July 2020.
- The Council accepts there were delays and errors in dealing with Ms X’s garden waste payments and her official complaint. The Council refunded the £57.50 and offered a remedy of free garden waste collections for 2021/2022. However, the Council did not refund the £60.
- As a result of my enquiries, the Council has said it will refund the £60, as well as the £57.50 already refunded. It has also provided free garden waste collection for 2021/2022.
- I understand that Ms X has not received the service she expected in relation to her garden waste collection. The Council has apologised, refunded the payments Ms X made and offered her a year’s garden waste collection free of charge. I consider this is a satisfactory remedy to her complaint. I understand Ms X also wants the money she paid to the private contractor refunded. However, Ms X chose to use a contractor and I do not consider the Council is responsible for other costs she incurred other than providing a refund.
- The Council will refund Ms X £60.17 within one month of the date of the decision on the complaint.
- I have completed my investigation of this complaint. This complaint is upheld, as there was fault by the Council. The remedy offered by the Council before the complaint was considered by the Ombudsman, along with the additional refund given as a result of my enquiries is a satisfactory remedy to the injustice caused.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- I have not investigated Ms X's complaint that the Council has not cut back overgrown vegetation behind her garden fence. The Council has said in an email that it intended to cut it back in September 2021. If it does not do so, Ms X can put in an official complaint to the Council and then the Ombudsman if she remains dissatisfied. The Ombudsman needs to allow the Council to rectify the problem first.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman