North Somerset Council (18 012 787)

Category : Other Categories > Councillor conduct and standards

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 11 Feb 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr D complains about the Council’s Standards Committee and the handling of his complaint about a Councillor. The Ombudsman has not found evidence of fault by the Council or a significant injustice to Mr D. He has completed the investigation and not upheld the complaint.

The complaint

  1. The complainant (whom I refer to as Mr D) says the Council has failed to properly handle his complaint about a Councillor. He refers to the Council stating he was “borderline vexatious”. He also mentions the Council breaching the Data Protection Act.

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What I have investigated

  1. I have considered the complaint except for matters relating to the Data Protection Act.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman normally expects someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, the Ombudsman may decide to investigate if he thinks there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  2. The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. He must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
  3. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information provided by Mr D and spoken to him. I have also seen additional papers provided by the Council.
  2. I have shared my draft decision with both parties.

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What I found

  1. Mr D complained to the Council in 2018 about the actions of a Councillor. He said his address had been read out at a meeting and the Councillor had sworn. His case was considered by the Standards Sub-Committee (Standards Committee) and not upheld.

What should have happened

  1. Complaints about Councillors are considered by the Council’s Standards Committee. The Committee will decide if there is a breach of the Council’s Code of Conduct and if any further action is warranted. Its decision is final and there are no further stages of appeal.

Was there fault by the Council

  1. I have not seen any evidence of procedural fault by the Council. Mr D is clearly dissatisfied with the handling of his case and feels the Committee was misled. However, the Committee reached a view on the evidence before it and acted in line with procedures. I understand Mr D does not agree with the decision but the Ombudsman cannot question the merits of it in the absence of any fault. In addition, I do not see there has been a significant injustice to Mr D that would warrant further investigation. The Council has not instigated its vexatious complainant policy against him and so he has not been restricted in making future complaints.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed the investigation and not upheld the complaint.

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Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate

  1. Complains about a breach of the Data Protection Act are for the Information Commissioner to consider. Mr D confirmed he has contacted that organisation about his case.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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