Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 17 Apr 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Ms B complains about the Council’s decision not to take action against a trader on her behalf to recover money she had to spend correcting his sub-standard work. The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint because there is no evidence of fault by the Council.
- The complainant, who I refer to as Ms B, says the Council is at fault for failing to pursue a trader on her behalf who she says should pay her back the money she spent correcting his sub-standard work.
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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- In considering the complaint I spoke to Ms B and reviewed the information she and the Council provided, including its response to her complaint under its complaints procedure.
What I found
- Ms B employed a trader to carry out work and paid him for it. Finding the work to be sub-standard and not fit for purpose, Ms B contacted the Council’s Trading Standards Department to ask that it take action to recover the money she had paid to another company to rectify the work.
- The Council contacted the trader to obtain his view of what had occurred and having done so it informed Ms B that, contrary to her allegation, it had found no evidence of fraud. It sent her a copy of its letter to the trader and his reply. It told her that if she wanted to recover damages against him then this would be action she would have to take herself in the civil courts because the Council would not do so on her behalf. It also provided details on the relevant dispute resolution organisation if she wanted to pursue this option. When her MP wrote to the Council on her behalf, the Council gave him the same information.
- Dissatisfied with the Council’s response, Ms B made a formal complaint to the Council. In its reply, the Council explained that officers had investigated her complaint to see if there was evidence of a criminal offence against which it could take action. However, having done so, and having taken into account what she and the trader had said, it decided the matter was a civil one and, therefore, for Ms B to take her own civil action if she wanted to pursue a claim for damages. It concluded by explaining it had not failed in its duty by declining to provide the service Ms B wanted.
- I understand Ms B is disappointed with the Council’s position that in cases such as hers, where the complaint is about sub-standard work and a claim for compensation and where no criminal offence has been committed, it is up to the individual to take their own civil action. However, the Council’s failure to take action in such circumstances is not evidence of fault and there are no grounds on which to base an investigation by the Ombudsman.
- The Council properly considered her case. It looked into whether a criminal offence had been committed and on deciding it had not, it wrote to Ms B with its decision and gave her information about her options if she wanted to pursue her own civil case or use the dispute resolution body.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint because there is no evidence of fault by the Council
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman