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Telford & Wrekin Council (20 000 574)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 16 Jul 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr C’s complaint that he was not able to vote in the General Election because the Council failed to arrange both a postal and a proxy vote. Arrangements for holding an election are the personal responsibility of the Returning Officer for the area, not an administrative function of the Council.

The complaint

  1. Mr C complains the Council failed to arrange a postal vote in time causing him to lose his right to vote. Mr C says he sent an email to the Council to apply to vote by proxy so his son could vote on his behalf. The Council’s electronic system filtered Mr C’s email into the wrong mailbox and it was later deleted. Mr C complains the Council provided him with the wrong information causing him to lose his right to vote in the General Election.

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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 for elections act in their own capacity, not as officers of a local authority. (Representation of the People Act 1983, sections 23(2))
  4. The Courts have said that we cannot investigate a complaint about any action by a council, concerning a matter which is itself out of our jurisdiction. (R (on the application of M) v Commissioner for Local Administration [2006] EHWCC 2847 (Admin))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered what Mr C said in his complaint, and discussed it with him by telephone.

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What I found

  1. Mr C says the Council did not send his postal vote in time to allow him to vote in the General Election, so he requested a proxy vote by email to the Council so his son could vote on his behalf. He says the Council’s electronic system filtered this into the wrong mailbox and it was later deleted. Mr C says the Council gave him the wrong information causing him to lose his right to vote in the General Election.
  2. The Returning Officer is responsible for organising elections. In this role, the Returning Officer works independently and not on behalf of the Council. The Ombudsman has no legal jurisdiction to investigate complaints about the organisation of elections.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate the complaint as it is about the Returning Officer's functions not those of the Council.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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