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Brighton & Hove City Council (19 012 285)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 05 Dec 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr B’s complaint that the Council was at fault in sending him copies of his partner’s P45. This is because the actions Mr B has complained about are those of council officers acting on behalf of the Returning Officer who does not carry out administrative functions of the Council.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr B, complained that the Council was at fault in sending him copies of his partner’s P45. Mr B told us this caused him great anxiety, emotional and mental stress.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. We cannot investigate a complaint where the body complained about is not responsible for the issue being raised. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(1), as amended)
  3. Returning Officers are council officers but are appointed under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and are not carrying out administrative functions of the Council.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Mr B provided and his comments on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr B complained to the Council that he was shocked to receive three copies of a P45 for his partner who had passed away four years previously. His partner had helped at elections for several years.
  2. Mr B sought help from his MP who took up the matter on Mr B’s behalf. In its reply to Mr B’s MP the Council said the way the Returning Officer pays electoral staff was changing. As part of the changeover, the previous system closed down and P45s were sent to all staff. The Council said the payroll database held on behalf of the Returning officer had not been regularly updated so the P45 had been sent to Mr B’s partner in error. The Council apologised to Mr B’s MP, not directly to Mr B, for the distress this may have caused
  3. Mr B told us his complaint is about the Council, not an individual officer. He says when he made the complaint initially, he was unsure which department to send it to. It was only the Council’s Electoral Services team which replied to his complaint.
  4. Returning Officers act in a personal capacity, not for the Council. They have a separate role. They are not carrying out administrative functions of the Council. We cannot investigate the actions of Returning Officers, or council staff acting on their behalf to assist them in their role, or the Council’s subsequent complaint handling on behalf of the Returning Officer.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint. This is because the actions Mr B has complained about are those of council officers acting on behalf of the Returning Officer who does not carry out administrative functions of the Council.

Investigator’s final decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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