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Mid Sussex District Council (17 004 517)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 17 Aug 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We cannot investigate Mr Y’s complaint about cancelled postal votes and the resultant cost to the public pursue. The Ombudsman has no legal remit to investigate the organisation of elections or public finances. Mr Y also complains the Council has not responded to a request for information he has made. We will not investigate as Mr Y should make his complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr Y, complains the Council spent £37000 writing to people about cancelled postal votes and has not responded to Mr Y’s request for information about this.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate a complaint where the body complained about is not responsible for the issue being raised. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(1), as amended)
  2. We cannot investigate something that affects all or most of the people in a council’s area. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(7))
  3. The Information Commissioner's Office considers complaints about freedom of information. Its decision notices may be appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). So where we receive complaints about freedom of information, we normally consider it reasonable to expect the person to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr Y said in his complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr Y complains the Council cancelled postal votes and then had to write to those people affected which cost £37000. Mr Y feels this was avoidable. Mr Y has also made an information request to the Council about this but it has not responded.

Analysis

  1. Elections are organised by the Returning Officer who in carrying out this role acts independently and not on behalf of the Council. We have no legal remit to investigate the Returning Officer’s actions or the organisation of elections.
  2. We cannot investigate spending decisions which affect all or most of the people in the Council area.
  3. The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights. It is best placed to deal with Mr Y’s complaint about his information request.

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Final decision

  1. We cannot investigate Mr Y’s complaint as it relates to the organisation of elections and public spending. Both matters are outside our legal remit. We would expect Mr Y to make his complaint about his information request to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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