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London Councils Transport & Environment Committee (20 011 707)

Category : Other Categories > Commercial and contracts

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 18 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about a breach of contract by the Council. This is because the complaint is late and it would be reasonable for Mr X to go to court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr X, complains the Council breached its contract with Mr X for the provision of services in November 2019. He says that as a result his company lost funding totalling £24,000 and had to let four members of staff go.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. 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)
  3. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s response. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and invited his comments.

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What I found

  1. The Council entered into a contract with Mr X’s business in 2019 for the provision of services relating to a community employment grant. The Council suspended and subsequently terminated the contract in November 2019 and Mr X believes its actions amounted to a breach of contract. He complained to the Council and the Council referred him to us in July 2020.
  2. The actions Mr X complains about date to November 2019 but Mr X did not raise his complaint with us until February 2021; his complaint is therefore late. I have seen no good reasons for the delay in bringing the complaint to us and I will not therefore exercise our discretion to investigate it.
  3. The issue Mr X raises is also more appropriate for consideration by the courts. Mr X believes the Council breached the terms of its contract but the Council does not agree. The losses Mr X claims are substantial and it would therefore be reasonable to ask the courts to consider his claim.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the complaint is late and it would be reasonable for Mr X to take the matter to court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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