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Birmingham City Council (20 013 410)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 04 Apr 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council leaving bins blocking Mr X’s driveway. The Council has now resolved the problem and apologised. Any investigation by us would be unlikely to achieve more.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complained the Council’s refuse collectors were emptying his and neighbours’ bins and leaving them obstructing his driveway. Mr X said this caused inconvenience when trying to drive in and out of his driveway and he was reluctant to move the bins himself because of health problems.

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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 provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(7), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. When Mr X complained to us, we said he should take the matter through the Council’s complaint procedure. At the final stage of that procedure, the Council said it would ask the collection crews not to leave bins where they would cause a hazard in the road or obstructing pedestrians and mobility scooters using the dropped kerb. The Council apologised for the problems. Mr X says since then his driveway has not been obstructed by bins.
  2. The main point affecting Mr X and prompting his complaint to us is therefore resolved. I appreciate Mr X had some inconvenience and anxiety on bin collection days while the problem was ongoing. However, we would be unlikely to recommend more than the apology and change of practice the Council has now provided on this point.
  3. Mr X is also concerned about the Council’s complaint-handling and communications. However, it is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about a Council’s communications and complaint procedures, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue.
  4. Mr X told us that, while his driveway is no longer blocked, the collection crews are now leaving bins blocking pavements nearby. He is concerned that will impede pedestrians with disabilities or users of mobility scooters. This point does not cause Mr X himself a significant enough injustice to warrant the Ombudsman investigating. If someone significantly affected by this issue were to complain to us (after completing the Council’s complaint procedure), we would consider such a complaint on its merits.
  5. Mr X also says there are systemic problems with the Council’s refuse collection service. However, the Ombudsman’s role is to consider complaints from individuals. It is not our role to police or oversee councils’ activities generally.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because the Council’s apology and change of practice is enough remedy for any injustice caused to him.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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