London Borough of Hackney (20 002 330)

Category : Transport and highways > COVID-19

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 16 Sep 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Miss X complained the Council’s published information about free parking for key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic was misleading. We will not investigate this complaint because it is unlikely we would find fault in the Council’s actions.

The complaint

  1. Miss X complained the Council’s published information about free parking for key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic was misleading, and she did not initially realise she qualified. She has therefore paid for parking for around a month when she should have been exempt. She wants the Council to refund her parking costs.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. This complaint involves events that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Government introduced a range of new and frequently updated rules and guidance during this time. We can consider whether the council followed the relevant legislation, guidance and our published “Good Administrative Practice during the response to Covid-19”.
  2. 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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Miss X provided.
  2. I asked the Council for the relevant page of its website as it appeared on the date Miss X contacted the Council, and considered this.
  3. I considered Miss X’s comments on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. On 23 March 2020, the government announced the Covid-19 lockdown. People working in certain sectors were considered ‘key workers’, as they were considered to provide an essential service and needed to keep working. Miss X was a key worker and continued to travel to her place of work.
  2. Many councils responded to the crisis by allowing key workers to park for free. The Council was one such council, and announced this via its website. Miss X was not aware she could register for exemption from parking fees and continued paying to park at her place of work until 16 April. She paid £147.87 in parking fees between 23 March and 16 April.
  3. Miss X contacted the Council on 16 April and was granted an exemption. She asked the Council to pay back the parking fees she had already incurred, but it said it would not.
  4. Miss X says the Council’s website was misleading because it “had worded this free parking announcement as key workers SUCH AS NURSES AND CARERS”. Miss X was not a nurse nor a carer, so she did not think this applied to her.
  5. I have considered how the Council worded its announcement. The Council’s website stated, on 16 April “We are continuing to enforce parking restrictions in Hackney. This is to ensure that we can make sure there is enough parking space for key workers, such as nurses and care workers”. Elsewhere on the page, it said the exemption was “open to workers classed as key workers in government guidance” and gave a list of examples. It also provided a link to the government guidance on who was a key worker.
  6. The information on the Council’s website was clear and did not imply other types of key workers could not register for free parking. It did not say only nurses and care workers could park for free. Rather, it stated these as examples of key workers, and gave sufficient information for people to clarify whether they were included. The information the Council published on its website was not misleading, and we would be unlikely to find fault if we investigated this complaint.
  7. Miss X also told us she did not believe the customer service from the Council was satisfactory as it did not provide her with sympathy when it found out she had paid for parking while others had parked for free. I have seen no evidence that leads me to believe the Council communicated in a way that would amount to fault. Miss X is understandably frustrated, but the Council was entitled to make the decision it did.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault in the Council’s actions.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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