London Borough of Southwark (22 009 594)

Category : Other Categories > Elections and electoral register

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 08 Nov 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the complainant being prevented from voting in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2021 Greater London Authority election. This is because the complaint does not meet the tests in our Assessment Code on how we decide which complaints to investigate. It is reasonable to expect the complainant to have contact us sooner, and we have no power to investigate complaints about the organisation/conduct of elections.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, believes he was deliberately obstructed from voting at the polling station in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2021 Greater London Authority election.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  2. And 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X, and our Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. The 12-month time restriction detailed in paragraph 2 applies to this complaint. Mr X says he was prevented from voting at the polling station in 2016 and May 2021. Yet he did not contact the Ombudsman until October 2022. I see no reasons why the Ombudsman should exercise discretion to consider this late complaint now.
  2. And even if this time restriction did not apply, it is the Returning Officer who has the overarching responsibility for the organisation of elections. In carrying out this role, the Returning Officer works in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the Council. We therefore could not investigate Mr X’s complaint about what happened at the polling station, because the Council is not responsible for the issue being complained about and we have no remit to investigate the Returning Officer.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because it is reasonable to expect him to have contacted us sooner, and we have no power to investigate the organisation/conduct of elections.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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