Gosport Borough Council (21 003 371)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Jul 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about how the Council managed a request to join the electoral register. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault with how the Council dealt with the matter.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I will call Mrs C, complains that the Council caused her to miss voting in an election because it insisted on her providing the name of her boat as part of her address.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered Mrs C’s complaint and the Councils response.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. The complainant now has an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I will consider their comments before making a final decision.

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My assessment

  1. In 2014 the Government introduced individual electoral registration and now requires all individuals to provide their full name, address, date of birth, nationality and national insurance number.
  2. Special arrangements for some electors apply, including those who do not have a permanent or fixed address. In these circumstances a special electors form needs to be completed.
  3. Mrs C applied online to join the Council’s electoral register. Mrs C lives on a boat and at the time of her application her boat was moored in marina, so Mrs C used the marinas address on the application.
  4. Upon receipt of her application the Council noted that there were no permanent residential berths at the marina so the Council emailed Mrs C asking for the name of her boat so it could post her the special electors form. The title of the email was ‘Online registration’ followed by the name of the marina.
  5. The email went to Mrs C’s spam folder, and she did not see it until the statutory deadline for registration on the electoral register had passed. Mrs C says the title of the email was vague and that the Council should not have needed the name of her boat to send her the form.
  6. I will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault in how the Council dealt with Mrs C’s request to join the electoral register. The Council needed Mrs C to complete the special electors form so asked her to provide the name of her boat. It is unlikely that any investigation would conclude that this was an unreasonable request, to ensure the form was correctly delivered to her.
  7. Mrs C says that other organisations don’t ask her to provide the name of her boat before sending documents too her. Whilst this may be the case, this does not mean the Council are at fault for doing so.
  8. It is unfortunate that the email the Council sent went to Mrs C’s spam folder meaning she did not see it. Mrs C says she feels she may have opened the email if it didn’t have such an ambiguous title. However, I do not consider the title of the email to be particularly ambiguous, and it is therefore unlikely we would be able to conclude with any certainty that the title of the Council was responsible for the email not being opened.
  9. Finally, Mrs C complains about how the Council responded when she raised her complaint about the matter. However, it is not a good use of public resources to look at the Council’s complaints handling if we are not going to look at the substantive issue complained about. We will not therefore investigate this issue separately.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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