Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 16 Oct 2017
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the Council removing the complainant from the electoral register. This is because there is insufficient evidence of injustice.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, complains that the Council removed him from the electoral register. Mr X wants officers disciplined.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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 an investigation if we believe the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I considered comments Mr X made in response to a draft of this decision.
What I found
- The Council received a document in the post which suggested Mr X might have moved. After the election the Council wrote to Mr X to make enquiries. The Council said it would remove him from the electoral register if he did not respond.
- Mr X says he responded and the Council said he would remain on the register. But the Council then removed him in August.
- Mr X complained. The Council responded on 8 August. It explained what had happened and apologised for any distress. It said it had put him back on register.
- It appears the Council may have removed Mr X for a second time. This is because the second stage complaint response says the Council put Mr X back on register from 1 September. The Council explained it had no record of what the document was that suggested Mr X might have moved. The Council said it might have been the poll card. The Council said there had been no wrongdoing by officers as it not received his response confirming he had not moved.
- It appears the Council removed Mr X from the electoral register on two occasions. From the complaint responses I am not clear exactly what happened. However, at most, Mr X was only removed from the electoral register for a few weeks in August and he was not prevented from voting in any election. Mr X says he was applying for jobs and sorting out his finances. He says he would have been embarrassed if checks had been done while he was not on the register. However, there is no evidence that any harm was caused. The role of the Ombudsman is to provide a remedy for serious injustice that has actually happened. He does not intervene simply because there might have been a negative impact.
- Mr X has been put to some time and trouble. But, the Council has apologised for the inconvenience and there is insufficient evidence of injustice to warrant an investigation by the Ombudsman.
- I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman