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London Borough of Enfield (20 010 245)

Category : Other Categories > Councillor conduct and standards

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 24 May 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Miss X complained about the Council’s decision not to investigate her complaint about the conduct of a councillor in relation to the introduction of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme. We should not investigate this complaint further. There is insufficient evidence of fault which would warrant further investigation.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Miss X complains the Council has wrongly decided not to investigate her complaint about the conduct of a councillor.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Miss X said in her complaint and sent her my draft decision for her comments.
  2. Miss X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

  1. Miss X complained to the Council about a councillor she believed had breached the Council’s code of conduct. Miss X considered the councillor was responsible for the decision to introduce a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in her area. She asserted the councillor had:
    • showed poor leadership by failing to engage with residents;
    • demonstrated a lack of transparency, objectivity, and openness by working with only a small minority of residents;
    • discriminated against disabled and elderly residents, who would be at a significant disadvantage if the scheme went ahead; and
    • demonstrated a lack of honesty and accountability in the published information for the scheme.
  2. The Council’s Monitoring Officer told Miss X they had considered her complaint in line with the Council’s procedure for dealing with conduct complaints against councillors. Following an initial assessment, they concluded they could not investigate any breaches of the members’ Code of Conduct as the councillor was not responsible for the implementation of the traffic scheme. The scheme was approved by the Council and was being implemented by the Director of Environment and Operational Services.
  3. Miss X does not accept this and maintains the councillor was the decision maker. She states the councillor rather than Director of Services attended a webinar to answer questions on the scheme and invited residents to contact him with queries. The councillor also answered question on the scheme as part of Councillor Question Time.
  4. Miss X is pursuing a separate complaint with the Council about the implementation of the scheme. This is being dealt with under the Council’s corporate complaints procedure.

Analysis

  1. When considering complaints, we may not act like an appeal body. We can consider the way in which the Monitoring Officer considered the complaint but cannot question the merits of the Monitoring Officer’s decision if there was no fault in the procedure.
  2. The Council has considered Miss X’s complaint and decided there was no breach of the Code of Conduct which would warrant investigation. Although Miss X disagrees with this decision, it is one the Council was entitled to make.
  3. The Council’s Cabinet or committees decide council policies and senior officers in the relevant departments then lead the operational delivery and implementation of these policies and schemes. Miss X has made a separate complaint via the Council’s corporate complaints process regarding the implementation of the scheme.

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Final decision

  1. We should not investigate this complaint further. There is insufficient evidence of fault which would warrant further investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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