Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 26 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about incorrectly addressed council tax correspondence and a failure to reply to his Subject Access Request. The Council has now updated its council tax records, apologised and offered a financial remedy for Mr B’s time and trouble. Further consideration of this part of the complaint would not achieve any more for Mr B. And the Information Commissioner is better placed to consider if the Council has fulfilled its duties under data protection legislation.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr B, complains the Council sent information relating to council tax at a property he owns to the wrong address, took enforcement action and instructed enforcement agents to try and collect the outstanding payment from the wrong address. Mr B is concerned about a breach of his confidentiality and says the matter has caused him upset and inconvenience.
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, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr B provided and the complaint correspondence between Mr B and the Council. I sent a draft decision to Mr B and considered his comments in reply before I made my final decision.
What I found
- Mr B has explained he owns a property that is let to tenants. He says the Council has previously sent council tax correspondence relating to the property to Mr B’s home address, as he had requested.
- When the tenants moved out of the property, the Council sent updated council tax bills to Mr B at a different address and Mr B did not see them. When the bills remained outstanding, the Council issued a summons, obtained a liability order from the magistrate’s court and passed the unpaid debt to enforcement agents to recover. All the correspondence and a visit from enforcement agents was to the wrong address.
- In response to Mr B’s complaints, the Council has explained the address was of the former letting agents and they returned the correspondence unopened. The Council says it had not been notified of a change of correspondence address.
- Mr B is concerned about a breach of confidentiality and has asked the Council to provide him with copies of all records it holds for the property address. Mr B says the Council has failed to provide this information.
- While Mr B remains dissatisfied, the Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint further. Whether the Council’s records of the correspondence address for the property were not updated because it had not been notified of a change, or it had failed to act on a notified change, it has now updated the record. There are no outstanding costs. The Council has also apologised to Mr B and offered a goodwill payment of £50 to him for his time and effort dealing with the matter. Further investigation of this complaint would not achieve any more for Mr B.
- If Mr B considers the Council has failed to properly respond to his Subject Access Request, he can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner (ICO). It is reasonable to expect Mr B to do this because the Information Commissioner is better placed to consider if the Council has fulfilled its duties under data protection legislation.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council has now updated its council tax records, apologised and offered a financial remedy for Mr B’s time and trouble. Further consideration of this part of the complaint would not achieve any more for Mr B. And the Information Commissioner is better placed to consider if the Council has fulfilled its duties under data protection legislation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman