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Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (21 012 087)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 12 Jan 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that the Council failed to reply to his communications in 2021 about incorrect information on his electoral registration form. The Council has agreed to write to Mr X to explain what went wrong which is a fair way of settling the complaint. I will ask the Council to consider an apology which would remedy any injustice.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains the Council has failed to reply to his communications and complaints from March 2021 onwards regarding sending his household an electoral register information form containing inaccurate information. In November 2020 Mr X contacted the Council requesting it remove a relative from the electoral roll because he was no longer at that address but the form did not include the requested change. Mr X says the Council caused time, trouble, and distress by sending out the wrong information and saying everyone was an ‘absent voter’. Mr X says the Council should answer his complaints, explain what happened, and give him a payment covering his anxiety and stress.

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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 are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  2. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  3. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered Mr X’s information and comments and discussed the complaint with him by telephone. I have clarified the position with the Council.

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My assessment

  1. I will not investigate Mr X’s complaint for the following reasons:
  2. The Council has offered to write to Mr X and explain what happened. The Council has told me it made the changes requested by Mr X but the form which it sent in March contained older inaccurate information. The Council had difficulty dealing with communications due to the volume of contacts and pressure on the service.
  3. The Ombudsman would not investigate a complaint about information on the electoral register or a dispute about absent, proxy or postal votes because there is a right to appeal the Council’s decisions to the County Court. This places the complaint outside our jurisdiction (see paragraph 3 and 4 above). I consider it reasonable for Mr X to have used his right of appeal, if there was an issue about his right to vote in person, albeit he tells me he voted in 2021 without a problem.

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Recommended/Agreed action

  1. The Council has agreed to write to Mr X and explain what happened.
  2. I will recommend to the Council that it:
      1. confirms the position regarding the relative who was apparently removed from the electoral register following the request in November 2020 and
      2. it considers apologising to Mr X for the communication flaws.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that the Council failed to reply to his communications in 2021 about incorrect information on his electoral registration form. The Council has agreed to write to Mr X to explain what went wrong which is a fair way of settling the complaint. I will ask the Council to consider an apology which would remedy any injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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