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Reading Borough Council (21 010 139)

Category : Environment and regulation > Refuse and recycling

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 21 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about a failure to collect Mr X’s garden waste. The Council has done enough to put right the injustice its fault caused.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains the Council did not collect his garden waste and did not do enough to put matters right. He says this resulted in stress and inconvenience.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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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. Mr X pays the Council £61.50 a year for fortnightly garden waste collection. The Council failed to collect Mr X’s waste once, due to mistakenly removing him from the list of people who had paid for the service. The Council apologised, reinstated the collections and extended the period Mr X’s subscription covers. That means the Council has not charged Mr X for the period of the missed collection and he will receive some free collections. The Council also apologised for not dealing properly with Mr X’s initial telephone enquiries and letters about the matter. It said it would improve its practice in that area.
  2. Mr X says the Council’s actions do not properly recognise the stress and inconvenience of not knowing what was happening about the missed collection (when he already had a backlog of garden waste) and the time and effort of dealing with the matter. He is also dissatisfied the Council has not explained why it mistakenly removed his name from the list beyond saying it appears to have been human error. He wants the Council to pay him £300.
  3. It would be disproportionate for the Ombudsman to investigate precisely how the error occurred, given the error has been corrected. It is also unlikely we could reach a clear enough view on this.
  4. I recognise Mr X believes the Council has not done enough about the impact of its mistake. However, in the context of a missed collection of garden waste (or even if there had been several missed collections), I consider the Council has done enough. I do not consider there is a significant enough unremedied injustice to warrant the Ombudsman devoting time and public money either to investigating the complaint or to asking the Council to make Mr X a payment.
  5. Mr X is also dissatisfied with the Council’s complaint-handling. It is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because the Council has provided enough remedy for the injustice its fault caused. There is insufficient unremedied injustice to warrant investigation or to warrant asking the Council to make a payment.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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