Cheshire East Council (21 016 171)

Category : Other Categories > Other

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the actions of a community organisation funded by the Council. There is not enough evidence of injustice to the complainant from the Council’s actions. We will not investigate complaint handling as a standalone issue.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mrs X, complained about posters produced by a community organisation funded partly by the Council. The posters were about the dangers of drink spiking. Mrs X complained the posters perpetuated a victim blaming culture and diverted attention from more appropriate advice. Mrs X says the posters were quickly removed because of the harm they caused. Mrs X complained about the Council funding the community organisation and wanted to know what checks were in place to make sure it was an appropriate body for the Council to fund. Mrs X is unhappy with the way her complaint has been dealt with and says the Council has not responded to all her questions.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse effect on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if the tests set out in our Assessment Code are not met. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. It is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures, if we are unable to deal with the substantive issue

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. I gave the complainant an opportunity to comment on a draft statement and considered their comments before making a final decision.

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My assessment

  1. In its response to Mrs X’s complaint the Council said she needed to complain directly to the community organisation responsible for the posters. The Council said it attends the organisation’s meetings to offer advice, but it is not a member. The Council said it did not know about the posters until Mrs X complained.
  2. The Council told me it is in the second year of a three-year grant agreement with the organisation. But it is not a member of its “governance structure” and it is a “constituted unregulated community group”.
  3. I recognise how important the issue at the heart of Mrs X’s complaint is to her. But we will not start an investigation. This is because the issue which led to the complaint is the posters produced by the community organisation which is partially funded by the Council. But even if the Council did not provide any funding, we could never say the posters would not have been produced. We cannot therefore say the Council is responsible for any possible injustice to Mrs X.
  4. Mrs X is also unhappy with the Council’s responses to her complaints. Mrs X says the Council has not answered all her questions and has been slow to respond. She wants the Council to explain why it contributes to the community organisation and what checks it carries out to ensure it is an appropriate body to fund. But her concerns flow from the posters which, for the reasons set out above, we will not investigate. It is not our role to ensure all Mrs X’s questions are answered. Without sufficient evidence of fault or significant personal injustice caused by the Council we will not start an investigation. Concerns over complaint handling is not an issue we will look at on its own.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mrs X’s complaint. This is because there is not enough evidence of injustice from the Council’s actions. We will not investigate complaint handling as a standalone issue.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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