Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 13 Sep 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint the Council breached his data protection rights and he has missed his opportunity to vote as it is reasonable to expect him to register to vote at his new address and complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the Council’s handling of personal data.
- Mr B complains the Council:
- has not updated the electoral roll from his Council Tax records.
- must have sent a household enquiry form containing his personal details to his previous address.
- Has sent letters addressed to the previous occupants to his house.
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 or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr B.
What I found
- The Council is required to send a household enquiry form (HEF) to every residential address in its area. The HEF should include any information the Council already holds about who is registered at each individual address. (Regulation 32AZ (4) and (5) Representation of the People (England and Wales) Regulations 2001)
- The Council was not therefore at fault for sending the HEF forms to Mr B’s current and previous addresses as it did.
- Mr B did not re-register on the electoral roll when he moved to a new address. It is not the fault of the Council that he was unable to vote because of this. Mr B says he told the council tax section he had moved in, and he expects the Council to have used that information to amend the electoral register. The Council cannot by law process information given to it for council tax purposes to update the Electoral Register. That would require a change in the law and the Ombudsman cannot achieve that for Mr B.
- Because Mr B did not register at his new address, the Council has followed the law by sending a HEF to Mr B’s previous address with information about him. The Council has also followed the law by sending Mr B a HEF including the information it holds about who is registered at Mr B’s new address.
- Mr B believes the Council has sent letters to his home which were addressed to people who have lived there before him. Parliament established the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to consider breaches of data protection law. The ICO is best placed to consider Mr B’s concern about data handling.
- there is not enough evidence of fault by the Council causing Mr B injustice;
- the Ombudsman cannot achieve what Mr B wants about changes to the law; and
- it is reasonable to expect Mr B to approach the ICO about possible data breaches.
Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman