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West Northamptonshire Council (21 011 816)

Category : Planning > Building control

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 21 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The investigation of this complaint about the decisions made by a building control officer is discontinued. This is because further investigation would not be able to resolve a dispute over the interpretation of building regulations.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall call Mr X, complains about the conduct of one of the Council’s building control officers. Mr X says the officer told him wrongly that he needed to use steel reinforcing mesh in a concrete floor. And, the officer wrongly told him that a certain type of damp proofing should be used.
  2. Mr X complains about the attitude of the building control officer and wants a different officer to carry out inspections in future. He also wants compensation for the increased costs of using the steel reinforcing mesh.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the papers submitted by Mr X and discussed the complaint with him.
  2. Mr X and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X is building his own house and has said that he had not had any issues with the Council’s building control officers until recently.
  2. Mr X said that one building control officer visited and told him that he needed to use steel reinforcing mesh in a concrete floor. Mr X says that he did not agree this was needed but put it in so he could continue working. Mr X wants the Council to pay for the cost of the steel mesh. In response to Mr X’s official complaint, the Council said it does not agree with Mr X’s view and the steel reinforcing mesh was necessary.
  3. Mr X has explained his view that the mesh was not needed. The Council has explained why the building control officer reached a different view. My role is not to determine which interpretation of the building regulations is correct. The Council’s building control officer made a professional judgement when on site and there is, in my view, not enough evidence to warrant further investigation. The concrete floor is now complete and I cannot see that it is possible now, to resolve the dispute about the sub-floor base which is now covered in concrete.
  4. Mr X also disagreed with the building control officer view that a certain type of damp proofing was required. In response to Mr X’s official complaint, the Council’s head of building control agreed with Mr X’s view and has approved the work Mr X has carried out. So, this part of the complaint has been resolved and further investigation would not lead to a different outcome.
  5. I understand Mr X does not want a particular building control officer to visit the site. However, the Ombudsman cannot interfere with Council’s day to day running and so cannot achieve this for him.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued my investigation as there is no worthwhile outcome achievable by further investigation. This complaint is not upheld.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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