Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 29 Mar 2017
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about potential fraud. The Ombudsman has previously considered associated complaints from the complainant and the matter is likely to be outside our jurisdiction due to the length of time the complainant has known about the matter. In addition, the Council has considered the complaint and told Mr Y it has no remit to investigate. It is unlikely we can add to what the Council says or find fault in its decision.
- The complainant, who I shall refer to as Mr Y, complains the Council will not investigate an allegation of fraud, that public money has been spent on private assets.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault, it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council or that we can achieve any meaningful outcome (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered what Mr Y said in his complaint and background information from the Council. I have considered Mr Y’s response to my draft decision.
What I found
- Mr Y complains that three public bodies used their positions of office to propose, apply and approve a planning application to redevelop a canal basin. Mr Y considers the planning approval was illegal and contrary to the public interest. Mr Y believes these bodies used a substantial amount of public money to develop the basin for private use when the area should be used as a public open space.
- Mr Y has been complaining about this since 2005 and has made several complaints to the Ombudsman.
- Mr Y has contacted Essex County Council alleging fraud in relation to the planning matter and asked it to investigate.
- The Council’s fraud investigation team has reviewed Mr Y’s complaint. It concludes Mr Y’s allegations relate to planning decisions of a city council which it has no supervisory or regulatory role in relation to. It advised Mr Y it has no remit to investigate his complaint.
- Mr Y has had his belief that public funds were used fraudulently for many years. Mr Y has not therefore made his complaint to the Ombudsman within one year of knowing about the problem. Mr Y’s complaint is therefore made late and there are no good reasons to investigate now.
- Notwithstanding this, the Ombudsman has previously considered several associated complaints about this matter. We have advised Mr Y we cannot assist.
- Essex County Council has considered Mr Y’s complaint and its position. It is unlikely we would find fault with that or be able to achieve any meaningful outcome even if we did investigate.
- We will not investigate as it is unlikely we will find fault by the Council or be able to achieve any meaningful outcome. We have considered several complaints previously from Mr Y about these issues and advised we cannot assist and Mr Y’s complaint appears to be made late.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman