Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 13 Dec 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr B complained that the Council failed to respond accurately or promptly to his complaint about missed bin collections. We found fault with the Council’s actions which caused injustice to Mr B. The Council has agreed to pay Mr B £300 and improve its complaints procedure of the future.
- Mr B complained that Brighton & Hove City Council (the Council) failed to respond to his complaint about missed bin collections or offer him an appropriate remedy. This caused him inconvenience, distress and time and trouble.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), 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 have considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant, made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided. Mr B 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
- Between December 2020 and March 2021, the Council missed six of Mr B’s recycling bin collections and six of his refuse bin collections. Mr B first complained to the Council on 27 December 2020 and asked for £30 compensation. The Council responded on 11 January 2021. It apologised and said the bin was missed due to a replacement driver not being familiar with the route. It said the usual driver was now back and the situation should have improved.
- Mr B asked to escalate his complaint to stage two because the Council had lied about the reason his bin was not collected. He said his bin still hadn’t been collected. He requested an apology and £100 compensation.
- In February 2021 he asked on two occasions for a final letter so he could complain to the Ombudsman. He asked his local councillor for assistance in March 2021 following further missed collections.
- In April 2021 he complained to us. He said the Council was refusing to collect his recycling bin, lying about the reasons and delaying his complaint. The Council had sent someone round who accused him of putting wood in the bin, which he denied. He requested an apology and significant compensation. We sent the complaint back to the Council to consider at stage two of its complaints procedure.
- We chased the matter in June 2021. The Council started to investigate the complaint on 25 June 2021 and promised a response the following week. It said it was behind on its complaint responses due to some staff taking emergency leave.
- We chased the Council for a response at the end of June and again on 11 August 2021. As we received no response, on 17 August 2021 we passed the complaint to our investigation team. The Council said the complaints officer dealing with the complaint was on leave, but she would respond at the beginning of September 2021.
- On 12 October 2021the Council sent a stage two response to Mr B. It said it could not find evidence to support Mr B’s allegation that the Council had refused to take his recycling bin. It noted the missed collections between December 2020 and March 20201 and apologised for them. It apologised for the Council giving different reasons for the missed collections and agreed the initial response had been incorrect but said it had not been deliberate. It explained the problems caused when the wrong items are put in the recycling bin and explained it was not possible for the crew to remove items manually and then empty the bin. It offered a payment of £200 for the missed collections and for Mr B’s time and trouble in pursuing his complaint. It also apologised for the failure to escalate his complaint to stage 2 in January 2021 and for the delay in responding to it even when we intervened.
- The Council was at fault for the missed bin collections over a three month period. This caused Mr B distress and inconvenience. The distress was exacerbated by the failure of the Council to respond to his complaint accurately or within a reasonable period of time.
- Mr B made his original complaint after one missed collection of recycling and one of normal refuse. He received an incorrect explanation for this in January 2021. He received no further response from the Council until 12 October 2021 and no further explanation for the remaining missed collections. This meant he had to complain to us causing him further time and trouble. It was a simple issue which the Council should have resolved in March 2021.
- I welcomed the offer of £200 already made but considered it should be increased, to recognise the excessive delay in responding to his complaint. Within one month of the date of my final decision, I recommended the Council:
- pays Mr B a total of £300; and
- introduces a monitoring system for complaints to ensure they are dealt with in a reasonable period of time.
- I consider this is a proportionate way of putting right the injustice caused to Mr B and I have completed my investigation on this basis.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman