Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 05 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that Council officers are victimising him. This is because we are unlikely to find fault, or achieve the outcome he wants. And part of his complaint is late.
- The complainant, who I have called Mr X, complained that Cheshire West and Chester Council officers are victimising him.
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
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr X. I considered the information provided by the Council. And I considered information and comments Mr X provided in response to a draft of this decision.
What I found
- Mr X is the landlord of a property he rents out. In January 2016 Council officers inspected the rented property and identified several defects. Mr X did works to put right the defects. Later in 2016 he complained to the Council about the officers’ actions. The Council responded on 30 November 2016 and advised Mr X to complain to us if he remained unhappy. He did not do so.
- In March 2018 Council officers inspected Mr X’s rented property again following contact from his tenants. They identified several defects. Mr X did works to put right the defects. He said officers asked him to do works to radiators and bathroom ventilation which they had previously been happy with. He said these things had not changed.
- Mr X then complained to the Council. He said he was being unfairly treated by officers. He said an officer had colluded with his contractor who had not done repairs he claimed to have done. He also said an officer colluded with one of his tenants. And he said the officer who responded to his complaint in November 2016 had not contacted him in December 2016 as promised.
- The Council responded to Mr X saying, among other things:
- the officer who wrote to Mr X in November 2016 had advised him to come to the Ombudsman and so had considered the matter closed. It apologised if he had been expecting a further response;
- officers had inspected his property two years and two months apart and so it was not surprising they found different defects. The Council did not accept that this showed officers were incompetent or that they were punishing him for complaining about them;
- it had found no evidence of misconduct in public office by officers as he had alleged.
- Mr X complained to us in April 2018. He said the Council’s officers were victimising him and he had yet to receive the response he was promised in November 2016. He said the past two years had been stressful and he had wasted a considerable amount of time and money. Mr X wanted an apology from the Council, as well as compensation. And he wanted us to help the Police prosecute officers for misconduct in public office.
- In response to a draft of this decision, Mr X provided documents the Council sent him following his subject access request. He said it would be in the public interest for us to investigate his complaint as the officers’ pattern of behaviour was continuing. And he said officers would continue to victimise him if he did not complain. Mr X said he could not complain to us sooner because he was awaiting the officer’s response promised in 2016.
- We will not investigate this complaint.
- Mr X said the Council’s officers were victimising him, and this was ongoing. He also said officers colluded with a contractor and one of his tenants. Officers inspected his property more than two years apart, in 2016 and then again in 2018 following contact from his tenants. They identified defects during both inspections which Mr X had to put right. I do not see that the inspections, or the work Mr X had to do as a result of those inspections, are evidence of victimisation.
- Mr X said that officers asked him to repair items they were happy with previously, even though nothing had changed. However, none of the documents I have seen – many of which Mr X provided – support his allegations that officers were victimising him or colluding with his contractor and tenant.
- Mr X said the past two years had been stressful and he had wasted a considerable amount of time and money. I recognise that he will have had to spend time organising and arranging works to put right the defects identified during the inspections. However, as Mr X is a landlord, this is something he would have to do regardless of who found the defects.
- Mr X said he had yet to receive a response he was promised on 30 November 2016, and said this was one reason why he did not complain to us sooner. The Council told Mr X the officer thought the matter was closed, but apologised if he was expecting something more. In any event, the officer advised Mr X in November 2016 that he could complain to us. But he did not do so until April 2018. Mr X said there is a public interest in us investigating the complaint as the victimisation was ongoing. As I have seen no evidence that officers victimised Mr X it therefore follows that this cannot be ongoing, nor is there a public interest which would justify an investigation. This part of the complaint is late, therefore, and Mr X has not given any good reason for us to investigate it now.
- Finally, Mr X would like us to help the Police prosecute officers for misconduct in public office. This is not something we can achieve for him. Nevertheless, Mr X may complain to the Police if he thinks there has been misconduct.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman