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Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council (18 015 124)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 18 Feb 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the alleged racist content of an election leaflet. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. In addition, there are other organisations who are better placed to consider the issues.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, says the Council never responded to a complaint she made about the racist content of an election leaflet.

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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:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and asked the Council to comment. I invited Mrs X to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. The Electoral Commission has limited powers to deal with complaints about the content of election leaflets. It recommends people complain directly to the candidate or the party they represent.

What happened

  1. Mrs X contacted the Council to complain about the content of an election leaflet. She says the leaflet included racial abuse about her family. Mrs X says the Council did not respond.
  2. The Council says it did not receive a complaint from Mrs X. In addition, it has no power to deal with complaints about the content of election leaflets.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. This is because the Council did not receive Mrs X’s complaint and it could not have dealt with it even if it had received it.
  2. Mrs X could contact the police if she thinks the racial abuse constituted a criminal offence. She could also contact the Electoral Commission, the candidate or the political party the candidate represented. The allegation about the leaflet is not one that either the Council or the Ombudsman can investigate.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council and because there are other organisations better placed to deal with the complaint.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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