Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 26 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint that a local organisation plagiarised his creative ideas. This is because we cannot investigate the actions of the organisation. We will also not investigate Mr B’s complaints that the Council failed to support creative projects. This is because an investigation would be unlikely to find fault.
- Mr B complains the Council or another local organisation:
- have used some of his creative ideas without involving him or crediting him;
- failed to support creative projects for local people; and
- have discriminated against him on the grounds of age and his freedom to express his artistic expression under the Human Rights Act.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about councils and certain other bodies. We cannot investigate the actions of organisations if they are not providing a service on behalf of the Council. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 25 and 34A, as amended)
- 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, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered the information provided by Mr B as part of his complaint.
- I have taken account of Mr B’s comments on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- Mr B, who is an artist, considered there was a lack of professional artists and workshops in his area. So he put forward a proposal to a local community charity which he thought would help to address these issues.
- Mr B says the charity was enthusiastic at first but then changed its mind. Mr B believes this happened because it was influenced by the Council and other local organisations, including Organisation A.
- Mr B then says some of the ideas and designs in his proposal were used on a new website which was launched by Organisation A. Mr B also believed the branding for the website was influenced by his designs.
- Mr B contacted the Council twice about these matters. However, he did not receive a reply. Therefore, he made a formal complaint. Mr B felt the Council had not responded to him on purpose to allow Organisation A to plagiarise his ideas for its website.
- The Council responded and said there had been a misunderstanding and it had forwarded Mr B’s previous emails to a public consultation that was underway at the time regarding regeneration. The Council apologised for the delays and confusion this caused and for not providing him with an earlier response.
- The Council said it had found no substance to Mr B’s allegations that the delay in responding to him allowed Organisation A to plagiarise his ideas for its new website. It explained the website had been designed many months prior to Mr B’s initial contact with the Council.
- Mr B remained unhappy and complained to the Ombudsman.
- Mr B complains a website set up by Organisation A has plagiarised his ideas. He also says the Council delayed in responding to his original emails to allow this to occur.
- The Ombudsman does not have the authority to look at the actions of Organisation A. In any case, it is unlikely that an investigation would find fault. The Council’s reasons for the delays appear acceptable. In addition, the Ombudsman investigates whether there is fault in the way the Council has carried out its administrative functions. Therefore, it is not within the Ombudsman’s remit to come to a finding on whether one set of designs, are similar to, or influenced by, another set of designs. This would be a matter for the courts.
- Mr B says the Council failed to support creative projects for local people. The Ombudsman cannot compel a council to provide creative projects to the local community. Therefore, it is unlikely an investigation would find fault.
- Mr B complains the Council has discriminated against him in respect of his age and his right to artistic expression. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission is better placed to decide these matters.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely an investigation would identify fault. And there is a body better placed to consider Mr B’s complaints he has been discriminated against under the Human Rights Act.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman