Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council (18 002 129)

Category : Other Categories > Land

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 29 Nov 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr D complains that the Council failed to respond to his complaint about its mishandling of a charity under its guardianship. He says this prevented him referring the matter to the Charity Commission for investigation. The Ombudsman finds the Council was at fault in failing to respond to Mr D’s complaint but this did not cause him a significant injustice because the Council had provided the necessary information to the Charity Commission.

The complaint

  1. Mr D complains that the Council has failed to respond to his complaint about the mishandling of a charity under its guardianship. He says he cannot pass the complaint to the Charity Commission for investigation until the Council has responded.

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered all the information provided by Mr D, made enquiries of the Council and considered its comments and the documents it provided.
  2. I have written to Mr D and the Council with my draft decision and considered their comments.

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What I found

  1. Mr D complained to the Council about the mishandling of charitable land under its guardianship. He says the charity finances are missing substantial income from the sale of assets and that the Council has breached a covenant. He asked the Council to provide various information so he could refer the matter to the Charity Commission. He says the Council failed to respond which prevented him from doing so.
  2. The Council says it has identified concerns with charitable land in the borough and has been working with the Charity Commission as part of its review of charitable land. It says a full investigation was undertaken and a detailed report prepared in July 2017 in relation to the charity before it received Mr D’s complaint. A rectification plan is in place.
  3. The Council says all the financial information was correctly submitted to the Charity Commission so it considered this information was in the public domain and available to Mr D. It has provided a printout from the Charity Commission’s website which confirms financial information was provided. The Council says Mr D can contact the Charity Commission at any time and it has not prevented him from doing so.
  4. I am satisfied the Council has acted appropriately by carrying out an investigation and preparing a report. It also acted appropriately by providing financial information to the Charity Commission.
  5. I do not consider the Council was at fault in failing to provide a detailed answer to Mr D’s questions because it had already provided the necessary information to the Charity Commission. However, as a matter of courtesy, it should have informed Mr D that it did not intend to provide a substantive response and explained he could refer the matter to the Charity Commission in any event. I do not consider the Council’s failure to do this caused Mr D a significant injustice because the matter was already being dealt with by the Charity Commission which was Mr D’s aim.

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Final decision

  1. I find the Council was at fault in failing to respond to Mr D’s complaint but I do not consider this caused him a significant injustice.
  2. I have completed my investigation on this basis.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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