Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 23 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s response to her request for information. This is because the Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to consider her complaint.
- Ms X complains about the Council’s response to her request for information.
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:
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, 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’s Office (ICO) if they have a complaint about data protection or access to information. 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 considered Ms X’s complaint to the Ombudsman and the information she provided. I also gave Ms X the opportunity to comment on a draft statement before reaching a final decision on her complaint.
What I found
- Ms X complains about the Council’s response to her request for information. Ms X has asked the Council to provide copies of her records from when she was in the care of the local authority. The information Ms X has requested dates from the 1960s. Ms X is unhappy with the response from the Council. It has so far been unable to provide the information Ms X has asked for. The Council says the records might have been destroyed.
- The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights. It promotes openness by public bodies and protects the privacy of individuals. It deals with complaints about public authorities’ failures to comply with data protection legislation. This includes not disclosing information someone is entitled to and failing to properly handle personal data.
- There is no charge for making a complaint to the ICO, and its complaints procedure is relatively easy to use. Where someone has a complaint about access to information, the Ombudsman usually expects them to bring the matter to the attention of the ICO. This is because the ICO is in a better position than the Ombudsman to consider such complaints. It can decide if the Council has responded appropriately to Ms X, and if it has failed to keep information it should have done. It has much wider powers to act if it finds the Council has not acted appropriately as a data controller. Ms X should therefore approach the ICO about her concerns.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint. This is because the Information Commissioner’s Office is better placed to consider her complaint.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman