Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 12 Nov 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mrs X’s complaint about how the Council dealt with her proxy vote in the last general election. This is because the Ombudsman has no legal remit to investigate the organisation of elections.
- Mrs X complains the Council has failed to respond to her complaint about a problem she experienced with her proxy vote in the last general election.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- 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)
- 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))
- 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  EHWCC 2847 (Admin))
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Mrs X said in her complaint.
What I found
- Mrs X lives overseas and complained to the Council after experiencing a problem casting her proxy vote in the December 2019 General Election. Mrs X says the Council has failed to properly respond to her complaint.
- The Returning Officer is responsible for the organisation of elections and in doing so, acts in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Council. Because of this, we have no legal remit to investigate.
- The Courts have held that we cannot investigate a complaint about any action by a council, concerning a matter which is itself outside of our jurisdiction. We cannot therefore investigate how the Council has responded to Mrs X’s complaint.
- My decision is that the Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint as he has no legal remit to investigate the organisation of elections. This is because this is not an administrative function of the Council, but the responsibility of the Returning Officer, over whom we have no remit.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman