Scarborough Borough Council (20 006 312)

Category : Transport and highways > COVID-19

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 23 Nov 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman does not propose to investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s decision not to offer a discount on its summer mooring fees. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault causing Mr X significant injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr X, complains the Council has not offered a discount on its summer mooring fees despite restricting access to its moorings during lockdown. He says the Council has agreed to refund beach chalet users and feels he has been discriminated against.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  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”.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s responses. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and discussed the case with him.

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What I found

  1. Mr X moors his boat at a marina owned and run by the Council. As a result of the government’s national lockdown to tackle COVID-19, which started in March 2020, the Council closed the marina and restricted access to the pontoons, instructing owners to stay away.
  2. Mr X believes the Council should offer a discount to the owners of boats moored at the marina over the lockdown period as they did not benefit from some of the services included within their contracts. He refers to the Council’s decision to refund fees for beach chalets and believes this situation is comparable. He asked the Council to consider making a similar gesture to boat owners but the Council declined. It explained that during the lockdown it continued to provide services to its customers and carried out enhanced patrols to ensure customers’ vessels were safe and secure.
  3. The Council is under no obligation to offer a discount on its mooring fees and it is unlikely we would find fault in its decision not to do so. The matter also does not cause Mr X significant injustice. Mr X does not live in the area and could not have gone to the marina during the lockdown period in any event. He asked a friend to visit his boat to check that it was safe and intact and although he was concerned by the fact they could not do this, he confirms that when he was able to access his boat he saw that all was well.
  4. Mr X’s mooring fees guaranteed that he could keep his boat at the marina throughout lockdown and that it was kept safe and secure. While he could not access the vessel this was not the result of any fault by the Council and does not mean the Council must discount its mooring fees. The Council has taken a different approach to its beach chalet customers but this is not an injustice to Mr X.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault by the Council causing Mr X significant injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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