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Coventry City Council (18 015 719)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 22 Feb 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about how the Council has recorded his nationality on the electoral register. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault or that Mr X has been caused significant personal injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr X, complains the Council has recorded his nationality as British – rather than English – on the electoral register. Mr X says this is a form of discrimination.

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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 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
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  1. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mr X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the information he provided. I also gave Mr X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before reaching a final decision on his complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr X complained to the Council that it had listed his nationality as British – rather than English – on the electoral register. In its responses to Mr X’s complaints, the Council explained that legislation provides for ‘British Citizens’ to vote in UK Parliamentary, European Parliamentary, and local government elections. The Council therefore records people’s nationality as ‘British’ - even if they consider themselves to be ‘English’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘Scottish’. It has explained it has no discretion over this matter.
  2. In deciding whether to investigate a complaint, we need to consider several tests. These include if there is enough evidence of fault, and the level of alleged injustice to the person complaining. We do not investigate all the complaints we receive, and only look at those we consider the most serious.
  3. The Council has explained its position to Mr X and is acting in accordance with the relevant legislation. While Mr X disagrees with the Council’s position, I do not consider there to be enough evidence of fault to warrant an investigation. Also, while Mr X clearly feels strongly about this matter, I do not consider the alleged fault to have caused him significant personal injustice. This is not therefore a matter for the Ombudsman.
  4. If Mr X feels the Council is discriminating against him, he can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) for advice.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint. This is because there is not enough evidence of fault or that Mr X has been caused significant personal injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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