Torbay Council (20 000 829)

Category : Other Categories > Other

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 20 Nov 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complained the Council incorrectly spelt his middle name on his father’s death certificate and required a £90 payment to amend this. Mr X says he has paid to have this amended but the Council has refused to refund his payment. The Ombudsman has found fault with the Council. The Council agreed to refund Mr X the £90 fee and provide an apology.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complained the Council incorrectly spelt his middle name on his father’s death certificate and required a £90 payment to amend this.
  2. Mr X says he has paid to have this amended but the Council has refused to refund his payment.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this report, we 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. We refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered all the information Mr X provided. I have also asked the Council questions and requested information, and in turn have considered the Council’s response.
  2. Mr X and the Council accepted my draft decision.

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What I found

Council Process for Declaration of a Death

  1. The Council requires the informant of the death to provide details of the death which a registrar enters onto a computer system.
  2. A registrar will print a death certificate form containing these details. The registrar will ask an informant to check the form and sign if all details are correct. The registrar can amend free at this time if the informant finds a mistake. The registrar should tell the informant there is a £90 statutory fee for future amendments.
  3. The Council will post the death certificate form to the district in which the death took place. The receiving district should check the information on the form against the information on the computer system and complete the registration process.

What Happened

  1. Mr X’s father died on 29 February 2020.
  2. Mr X attended an appointment at the registry office on 5 March 2020 to register his father’s death. Mr X declared his father’s death and provided all relevant information.
  3. The registry office input the information provided on its computer system for Mr X’s father’s death. The registrar gave Mr X a letter confirming the details input onto the system titled “summary of information you have told us”. This letter shows Mr X’s name spelt correctly. The Council advised the registry office printed a death certificate form, asked Mr X to sign it and advised him there was a statutory fee of £90 for any amendments after this point.
  4. The register office posted a copy of the death certificate form to the borough where the death took place. The receiving borough registered Mr X’s father’s death and sent a death certificate to Mr X.
  5. On 26 March 2020, Mr X complained to the Council about his middle name being miss-spelled on his father’s death certificate. Mr X paid the £90 amendment fee to correct the spelling of his middle name.
  6. The Council responded to Mr X’s complaint on 27 April 2020. The Council said:
    • The registrar made a spelling mistake on the form.
    • The registrar asked Mr X to check the form and sign it to confirm there were no mistakes before the registrar input the information onto the system. Mr X missed the mistake and signed the form.
    • The registrar made Mr X aware of the £90 statutory amendment fee for any changes to the form. It was Mr X’s responsibility to pay this fee to amend the form and it could not agree to refund the £90 amendment fee.
  7. Mr X brought his complaint to the Ombudsman in July 2020.

Analysis

  1. When Mr X declared his father’s death to the registry office it should have input this information into the computer system and printed a death certificate form. The registrar should have asked Mr X to check and sign this form before sending this to the district where the death took place.
  2. Mr X provided me with a copy of the letter given to him by the registrar on 5 March 2020 when he declared his father’s death. This letter contains Mr X’s full name on three separate occasions. On each of these occasions Mr X’s name is spelt correctly.
  3. Neither Mr X nor the Council could provide me with a copy of the death certificate form that Mr X signed.
  4. The information Mr X provided to the registrar was accurate, as confirmed back to him in the letter dated 5 March 2020 and titled “summary of information you have told us”. I have received no evidence that Mr X signed an agreement to the incorrect spelling of his name. The evidence shows fault from the Council in inputting this information incorrectly onto the computer system.
  5. This fault has caused Mr X an injustice through having to pay the £90 statutory amendment fee. Mr X has also experienced time, trouble and distress through contacting the Council to correct the information on his father’s death certificate. The Council has agreed to refund this £90 fee to Mr X and provide him with an apology in writing.

Agreed action

  1. Within one month of the Ombudsman’s final decision the Council should:
    • Provide Mr X with a payment of £90 to reflect the correction fee on his father’s death certificate and provide an apology to reflect the time, trouble and distress experienced.

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Final decision

  1. There was fault by the Council as the Council has agreed to my recommendation I have completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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