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South Northamptonshire District Council (17 011 501)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Nov 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about electoral registration. This is because there is no meaningful outcome he could achieve and because there is insufficient evidence of injustice. In addition, the Ombudsman could not achieve the outcome the complainant wants.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, complains about the way the Council manages the electoral registration process.

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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 an investigation if we believe:
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
  • there is no meaningful outcome we could achieve.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I invited Mr X to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. The law says councils must send an enquiry form to every household, every year, for the purposes of electoral registration. The law also says councils must send the form to the residence and not to a care of address.
  2. The Electoral Commission is an independent body which oversees elections.

What happened

  1. Mr X lives in a caravan park. The residents are not allowed to receive post. Mr X has a care of address. He complains that the Council sent the electoral enquiry form to the caravan park. He also complains that he has to fill in his name and address on the form. He would prefer to have a pre-completed form and just sign to say that there have not been any changes. Mr X also complains that the Council has not been sending the form to all the park residents.
  2. The Council has been liaising with the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission has confirmed the Council must send the enquiry form to the place where the resident lives. The Council is aware there is a problem because it is required to send the form to the home address but the residents of the caravan park are not allowed to receive post. The Council is considering how to resolve this problem.
  3. Mr X has not been removed from the register and he has not lost his right to vote.
  4. Mr X wants the Council to send the form to his care of address rather than to the caravan.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation for the following reasons.
  2. I cannot achieve the outcome Mr X wants. The law, and the Electoral Commission, say the Council must send the form to the caravan park. I cannot ask the Council not to comply with this requirement and I cannot ask it to send the form to the care of address.
  3. The Council is aware there is a problem because the park residents are not allowed to receive post. It is working to try to resolve this problem and has sought advice from the Electoral Commission. The Council is already doing what we would expect it to do so an investigation would not lead to a meaningful outcome.
  4. Finally, there is insufficient evidence of injustice. Mr X would prefer to receive the form at the care of address and prefer not to have to write his details on the form. I appreciate Mr X may find this frustrating but it is not an injustice that requires an investigation. In addition, there is no evidence he has lost his right to vote and he is not personally affected if other people have problems with the registration process.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because I cannot achieve a meaningful outcome or the outcome Mr X would like. In addition there is insufficient evidence of injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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