Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 26 Oct 2015
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: the Council wrongly removed Mr X’s name from the electoral register. The Ombudsman has stopped investigating the complaint because there is insufficient evidence that the fault caused a significant injustice.
- Mrs X complains on behalf of her husband that the Council wrongly removed his name from the electoral register. She says this affected their credit rating and prevented her husband renewing his mobile phone contract until he was reinstated on the register.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. She provides a free service, but must use public money carefully. She may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if she believes:
- it is unlikely she would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify her involvement, or
- it is unlikely she could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- she cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
- it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- The Ombudsman has the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within her jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8))
How I considered this complaint
- I discussed the complaint with Mrs X and her husband. I considered the Council’s response to her complaint and asked the Electoral Services Manager for some information.
- I gave the Council and Mrs X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I took their comments into account before I made a final decision.
What I found
- The Council removed Mr X’s name from the electoral register by mistake on 30 November 2014. This happened when the Council was preparing the new register for publication on 1 December. The Council says it was a clerical error.
- Mr & Mrs X discovered Mr X’s name had been removed from the register in late January 2015 when they received a notice listing the electors registered at their address. Only Mrs X’s name was listed. Mr X telephoned the Electoral Services Manager to make a complaint and ask for his name to be put back on the register.
- On 2 February the Council wrote to Mr X confirming it had received his application to be added to the electoral register.
- On 9 February the Electoral Services Manager replied to Mr X’s complaint. He apologised for the error. He explained Mr X’s name would be reinstated on the register on 2 March. He explained the law only permits alterations to be made to the register on a specified day each month and 2 March was the next date.
- The Electoral Services Manager said he would inform three credit reference agencies who use the Council’s electoral register that Mr X’s name was removed in error and to ask them to backdate the amendment. This would mean there would be no gaps in Mr X’s registration if they checked his residency. He explained that Mr X could go to Stage 2 of the Council’s complaints procedure if he was not satisfied with his reply.
- I have seen evidence that the Council sent an email to the credit companies on 10 February 2015 asking them to amend their records. Two of the three credit companies replied to confirm this had been done.
- On 3 March the Council wrote to Mr X to confirm he had been reinstated on the electoral register on 2 March.
- There were no local or general elections in the three month period that Mr X was not on the electoral register. So he did not lose his right to vote.
- Mr and Mrs X told me they are concerned that the removal of Mr X’s name from the register adversely affected their credit scores and rating. They have lived in the same property for 29 years. Mrs X says their credit rating was outstanding and she believes this has now been destroyed.
- Mrs X says they have not applied for any loans or credit since December 2014. So they have not been refused credit.
- Mrs X says her husband could not renew his mobile phone contract until his name was reinstated on the electoral register. This could have caused a problem if there had been a medical emergency while they were out and it was necessary to call emergency services. He has since renewed the contract.
- The Council invited Mr X to send any evidence showing his credit rating was adversely affected by the removal of his name from the register between December 2014 and March 2015. It says he has not provided any such evidence.
- In July an Ombudsman investigator asked Mr X for evidence that his credit rating had been affected by the Council’s error. He has not provided any evidence.
- In September 2015 Mr X requested a Stage Two investigation of his complaint about being removed from the electoral register. An officer acknowledged Mr X’s email and said she would arrange for a senior officer to investigate it. Mrs X says the Council did not complete the investigation and tell them the outcome.
- The Council says it did not proceed with the Stage Two investigation because Mr X sent an email on 9 September 2015 telling the Council not to bother responding. By then the Council also knew the Ombudsman had decided to investigate the complaint.
- Mrs X says she wants the Council to pay £1,000 compensation. She says she would have been fined this amount if she had not returned electoral canvas forms.
- The Council wrongly removed Mr X’s name from the electoral register. That was fault and the Council accepts it made a mistake.
- The Council has apologised to Mr X. It put his name back on the electoral register at the first available opportunity after he complained. It contacted the credit reference agencies who use the electoral register to tell them about the error and ask them to amend their records.
- Mr and Mrs X firmly believe their credit rating has been adversely affected by the Council’s error. But they have not provided any evidence to the Council or the Ombudsman to substantiate this. So there is insufficient evidence of injustice to merit further investigation.
- I have stopped investigating this complaint because there is insufficient evidence the Council’s fault caused Mr & Mrs X a significant injustice.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman