Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 04 Jul 2017
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr B’s complaint about his voting by proxy application. That is because decisions on such matters are the responsibility of the Returning Officer and not an administrative function of the Council.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr B, complained that the Council did not to allow him to vote by proxy because of his work commitments.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out the Ombudsman’s powers but also imposes restrictions on what she can investigate. The Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints about the conduct of an election because this is the responsibility of the Returning Officer and not an administrative function of the Council. Returning Officers act in a personal capacity.
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr B sent to the Ombudsman and his comments on my draft decision.
What I found
- Although elections appear to be run by local authorities, in law they are run by the Returning Officer for each area. Returning Officers act in their own personal capacity, not as officers of the Council. Council officers are answerable to the Returning Officer for their actions in administering the election. The Returning Officer is personally liable for the conduct of elections. That includes the issue of proxy vote administration.
- In this case the Council told Mr B it had not received his application for a proxy vote by the deadline. That meant he would only be able to vote in person. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint because such decisions are the responsibility of the Returning Officer.
- The Council told Mr B he could contact the Local Government Ombudsman if he was unhappy with its response. Mr B says the Council should not have given him this advice. Also, he is seeking a detailed explanation from the Council. The Ombudsman will not, however, investigate a complaint about the Council’s complaint handling when he cannot investigate the substantive issue Mr B raised in his complaint.
- The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr B’s complaint because is about a decision which was the responsibility of the Returning Officer rather than an administrative function of the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman