The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about a conversation the complainant overhead. This is because the Council has provided an appropriate response.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, says Council officers made hurtful and discriminatory remarks about him and his partner.
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 an investigation if the Council has already provided a fair remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the complaint and the Council’s response. I listened to a recording of the conversation. I invited Mr X to comment on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- Mr X rang the Council about his housing application. During the call two officers discussed his case. The officer thought she had placed the call on hold but Mr X could hear the conversation between the officers. Mr X recorded the call. Mr X says the remarks made by the officers were hurtful, upsetting and discriminatory. Mr X complained.
- In response the Council agreed the remarks were unprofessional and unacceptable. It apologised for the distress caused to Mr X. It said it had raised the incident with the members of staff and arranged for the housing application to be dealt with by a different team. It confirmed the officers involved in the conversation would no longer work on Mr X’s housing application.
- The Council is still working with Mr X to help him find alternative accommodation.
- I will not start an investigation because the Council has already provided a fair and proportionate response. It listened to the call, accepted the comments were unacceptable, apologised, spoke to the staff involved and arranged for different officers to deal with the housing application. The was a fair response and there is nothing more I would have expected the Council to do.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman