Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 28 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaints about the Council’s responses to his allegations of financial mismanagement, breaches of data protection law, lack of support given to him in a safeguarding case and how it dealt with his complaints. There is insufficient evidence of significant personal injustice to Mr X and the Ombudsman cannot investigate some matters.
- These complaints arose from Mr X’s concerns, in 2016, about the Council’s financial decisions and a safeguarding case involving his daughter.
- Complaint 1: Mr X complains the Council has failed to deal properly with his complaints. He says the Council failed to properly investigate his original complaints, made in 2016, in an impartial manner. He says the Council has now denied him his right to make a complaint.
- Complaint 2: Mr X complains that the Council, in 2016, breached the Data Protection Act and acted illegally when dealing with his complaints. He says the Council sent his complaint to people who did not need to know or were indirectly linked to his complaint. Mr X says that senior officers dealing with his information ignored the law. Mr X says he wants an independent investigation into the breaches of data protection.
- Complaint 3: Mr X complains the Council failed to properly investigate, in 2016, his reports of financial mismanagement, serious misconduct and fraudulent payments. Mr X says the Council’s chief financial officer failed to act in accordance with his role. Mr X says he has tried to report his concerns to the officer again this year and has not had a response. Mr X says the Council should agree an independent investigation of his claims. He says the Council has instead labelled him a troublemaker and blocked him.
- Complaint 4: Mr X complains the Council failed to give him support in a case involving his daughter in 2016 and earlier.
- Complaint 5: Mr X complains the Council delayed in dealing with a freedom of information application in 2016. Mr X says the Council did not provide the information within the legally required time.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
- We cannot investigate something that affects all or most of the people in a council’s area. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(7), as amended)
- We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- The Information Commissioner's Office considers complaints about freedom of information. Its decision notices may be appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). So where we receive complaints about freedom of information, we normally consider it reasonable to expect the person to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have carefully considered Mr X’s information, comments and responses to my draft decision statement and enquiry to him. I have clarified with the Council its view. The information includes the Ombudsman decision in 2016 (16000855) and the recent communication between Mr X and the Council.
What I found
- In 2016 Mr X complained to the Ombudsman:
- That the Council’s safeguarding board had not investigated sufficiently a case involving his daughter. The situation was that a safeguarding board panel was to be held in May 2016 to which Mr X had been invited. Another Council was carrying out a serious case review.
- That the Council had not investigated sufficiently Mr X’s concerns about financial and personal governance. The Council said in 2016 that it was considering those matters.
- That the Council had: a) broken the Data Protection Act on many occasions, b) slandered Mr X, and c) delayed and blocked his freedom of information requests. This included not supplying all the information requested on his daughter. The Council told the Ombudsman, in 2016, that Mr X had gone to the Information Commissioner about the freedom of information request.
- I will not investigate Mr X’s complaint for the following reasons:
- Mr X has delayed nearly two years in returning to the Ombudsman about his original complaints and could have done so sooner. In saying that I have considered Mr X’s explanation that the delay was due to the emotional and time pressures arising from a serious case review, involving his daughter, in 2016. I will not therefore investigate the Council’s original handling of Mr X’s complaint (complaint 1); data protection and freedom of information (complaints 2 and 5); allegations of financial misconduct (complaint 3); and how the Council supported Mr X during the case involving his daughter (complaint 4).
- I will not investigate Mr X’s main complaint (complaint 3) about the Council’s refusal in the last year to reconsider or deal with his allegations about its financial management or respond to him about those matters. This complaint is outside jurisdiction because Mr X is raising it as a taxpayer rather than because he has a personal injustice (see paragraphs 8 and 17 above). If Mr X has evidence of criminal behaviour he could go to the police.
- Mr X can take a complaint about data protection and freedom of information to the Information Commissioner (see paragraphs 9 and 10). I consider it reasonable for him to do so as the Information Commissioner is the specialist body.
- An allegation of libel or slander is outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction because Mr X could take a legal action at court (see paragraph 11). I consider it reasonable for Mr X to use his legal remedies. The court has the power to decide the case and award damages.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaints about the Council’s responses to his allegations of financial mismanagement, breaches of data protection law, lack of support given to him in a safeguarding case and how it dealt with his complaints. There is insufficient evidence of significant personal injustice to Mr X and the Ombudsman cannot investigate some matters.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman