Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 30 Aug 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s error removing him from the electoral roll. This is because an investigation is unlikely to add to that already carried out by the Council.
- Mr X complains the Council removed his name from the electoral roll in error.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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 or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr X which includes the Council’s response to his complaint. He commented on the draft version of this decision.
What I found
- Mr X discovered his name was missing from the electoral register. He contacted the Council and re-registered before an impending election.
- He complained to the Council. The Council says it runs software to identify possible duplicate entries on the electoral register. It says staff then assess the possible duplicates and decide whether the entry is a copy and should be removed.
- The Council says the software programme identified a possible duplicate entry as Mr X and his son have the same/similar names. The entry was assessed by a member of staff. Unfortunately, they failed to check previous records which would have identified the entries for Mr X and his son were for separate people. Mr X’s name was removed from the register.
- Mr X noticed he had not received a polling card as other members of his household had. He contacted the Council. Mr X registered again online.
- The Council apologised for this, stating it was a mistake.
- Mr X is not satisfied with the apology and says he will have to constantly check that he is on the electoral roll.
- The Council says it has spoken to all staff involved. It has also spoken to the provider of the software used to identify duplicate entries. It says the removal of Mr X from the electoral register was due to human error.
- I understand Mr X is concerned about a possible repetition of this error. However, he identified the problem and contacted the Council. The matter was corrected before any significant repercussions occurred. Mr X could vote in the upcoming election. Therefore, while this may have been inconvenient, I do not consider that he suffered any significant personal injustice. The Council has apologised for the staff error and I consider this to be an appropriate remedy to his complaint. Any further investigation by the Ombudsman is unlikely to achieve a different outcome.
- Mr X wants the Council to ensure his details will not be removed from the electoral register in error again. And to identify the causes of the error.
- The Council has investigated the complaint. It has spoken to the software provided and interviewed all staff involved. I am satisfied with the Council’s explanation that the mistake was down to human error,
- The law requires the electoral registration officer at the Council to carry out an annual canvass of all households in the borough every year. This is to check the information on the electoral register is accurate. Also, Mr X can check with the Council at any time to see if his name is on the electoral register if he wants to do so.
- I will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely that further investigation will add to that carried out by the Council or lead to a different outcome.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman