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Milton Keynes Council (16 018 313)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Mar 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint that the Council has failed to accept liability for significant damage to his vehicle caused by a pothole. It is reasonable to expect Mr B to go to court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr B, complained that the Council has failed to accept liability for significant damage to his vehicle caused by a pothole.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Mr B sent to the Ombudsman and given him an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr B says he had to pay over £1300 for repairs to his vehicle.
  2. The Council, as the Highways Authority, has a duty under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain highways maintainable at the public expense.
  3. If Mr B considers the Council is liable for the damage to his car due to a failure to keep the road in a good and safe condition, then it is reasonable to expect him to pursue his claim by going to court. Only the courts can decide if the Council has been negligent and, if so, whether it should pay for the damages Mr B may seek. The courts can also enforce any payment. The Ombudsman has no such powers. Under Section 58 of Highways Act 1980 a highways authority can put forward a defence in court against a claim for damage resulting from a failure to maintain the highway.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint because it is reasonable to expect him to go to court.
  2.  

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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