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East Cambridgeshire District Council (17 018 964)

Category : Other Categories > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 23 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Mr Y’s complaint about damage to his property as it is reasonable to expect Mr Y to go to court to settle his claim. Mr Y is not caused a significant level of injustice from the Council writing to him about its persistent complainants policy and so we will not investigate.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mr Y, complains the Council damaged his letterbox when it hand delivered a large bundle of documents to him. Mr Y also complains about a letter the Council sent to him about its persistent complainants policy.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)
  2. 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 the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr Y said in his complaint.

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What I found

  1. Mr Y complains that when someone from the Council hand delivered a large bundle of documents to his home, they damaged his letter box. Mr Y wants the Council to pay for the repair.
  2. Mr Y also complains that the Council wrote to him to warn that it may consider limiting his contact with the Council under its Unreasonable or Unreasonably Persistent Complainants policy. Mr Y feels this was an abuse of power and seeks an apology.

Analysis

  1. Mr Y has the right to take legal action against the Council by making a small claim in the county court. As this right exists, the complaint is outside our legal remit.
  2. We can exercise discretion to investigate if we do not consider it is reasonable to expect Mr Y to resort to court action.
  3. There is a simple, low cost procedure open to anyone to make a small claim in the courts. Plus, ultimately, only the courts can decide if the Council is legally liable for the damage to Mr Y’s property and if compensation should be paid.
  4. For these reasons, we consider it is reasonable to expect Mr Y to take legal action and we will not therefore exercise discretion to investigate.
  5. While it is clear that Mr Y is unhappy about the Council’s warning letter, this does not constitute a level of injustice that would warrant our involvement.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint as it is reasonable to expect Mr Y to resort to court action for the compensation he seeks. The complaint is therefore outside our legal remit. We will not investigate Mr Y’s complaint about the Council’s warning letter as he is not caused significant injustice from it.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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