Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 25 Nov 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: the Council failed to collect Mr B’s bulky waste. An apology and payment to Mr B is satisfactory remedy.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr B, complained the Council:
- failed to collect his bulky waste on the date arranged; and
- failed to rearrange the collection when the contractor made an inaccurate claim.
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
- As part of the investigation, I have:
- considered the complaint and Mr B's comments;
- made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided.
What I found
What should have happened
- The Council operates a bulky item collection service and charges £23 to collect up to 10 bulky items. The Council’s website advises customers not to report missed collections until the following day. The Council’s website says missed collections will be scheduled for the next collection day for the area.
- The Council’s information about the bulky waste collection service advises that it will refund the charge if it is unable to collect the item(s).
- Mr B booked a bulky waste collection service from the Council in October 2020. The Council employs a contractor to collect the bulky waste and the collection was arranged for 22 October. Unfortunately, as Mr B lives in a new build property the contractor was unable to find the address on 22 October and so did not make the collection.
- The normal process would be for the contractor to tell the Council about any missed collections at the end of the day but that did not happen in this case. Mr B contacted the Council to find out about the missed collection and when it would be collected on 23 October. Mr B then telephoned the contractor directly. What happened during that telephone call is disputed. The contractor claims Mr B was aggressive and threatening and therefore the driver refused to attend Mr B’s address to collect the bulky waste. Mr B denies he was aggressive and threatening. As the contractor refused to return to Mr B’s address the Council advised him to make his own arrangements for collection of the waste. The Council refunded the amount Mr B had paid for the bulky waste collection. Following a complaint the Council apologised for the failures in this case.
- The Council accepts its contractor failed to collect Mr B’s bulky waste on the date arranged. It is clear from the Council’s description of events the process did not work as it should have done. What should have happened is that the contractor should have contacted the Council to clarify how to locate the address or should have reported the bulky waste collection as uncollected at the end of the day. The contractor did neither of those things which means the Council would not have known of the missed collection if Mr B had not contacted it. Failure to collect Mr B’s bulky waste is fault. The Council has accepted that, has apologised and has refunded the amount Mr B paid. I welcome that.
- Mr B says the Council’s remedy for the complaint is insufficient because he had to pay for a private collection and had to spend two days sorting the collection out. The Council does not consider it appropriate to cover the cost of that private collection because it says it offered Mr B a second collection. The documentary evidence does not support the Council’s view here though. It is clear from the documentary evidence the contractor refused to arrange a further collection because the driver alleged Mr B was threatening. In the absence of any recording of that telephone call I cannot reach a safe conclusion about whether the allegation is accurate. If the process had happened as it should have done though Mr B would not have had any personal contact with the contractor and a second collection would have been arranged. That would have meant Mr B would not have had to go to the additional cost of arranging a private collection. I therefore recommend the Council pay Mr B £100 to reflect the cost of arranging a bulky collection and his time and trouble sorting that out.
- Within one month of my decision the Council should pay Mr B £100.
- I have completed my investigation and uphold the complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman