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Milton Keynes Council (17 018 110)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway repair and maintenance

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 22 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s decision not to grit a highway junction. It is unlikely we would find fault by the Council causing Miss X significant injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Miss X, complains the Council does not grit her preferred means of access onto the main road out of the village she lives in.

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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, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed the details of Miss X’s complaint and the Council’s responses. I shared my draft decision with Miss X and considered her comments.

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What I found

  1. Miss X lives in a small village outside Milton Keynes. She complains the Council, as the highway authority for the area, grits some junctions leading to the main road out of the village but does not grit the junction she prefers to use. She says the junction becomes very icy in cold weather and is dangerous to use.
  2. The Council has a winter maintenance schedule which sets out priority 1, 2 and 3 roads. The main road through the village is on a priority 1 route meaning the Council grits it every time there is frost, snow or ice forecast. Miss X’s preferred junction is on a priority 3 route which means it will not consider treatment unless priority 1 and 2 networks are passable and clear of obstruction. The Council says the priority 1 route provides sufficient access to and egress from the main road into the village. Miss X is not satisfied with the Council’s explanation and believes her preferred junction provides better access for motorists. She also believes it is safer as there are fewer obstructions and blind bends.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. The Council it is under a duty to ensure safe passage along its highways is not endangered by snow or ice (Highways Act 1980, section 41(1A)) but this duty exists “as far as is reasonably practicable”. The Council has limited resources and must decide how best to allocate the resources it has available. It has decided how to classify roads making up the highway network and although it has her preferred means of access to the main road is classified priority 3 this is not evidence of fault. The priority 1 route through Miss X’s village provides means of access to the main road and egress from it and the Council’s decision does not cause her significant injustice.
  4. It is not for the Ombudsman to criticise how the Council decides to classify its highways or to tell it to reclassify certain roads as Miss X would like. If Miss X believes the Council has failed in its duty to maintain her preferred junction and has accident as a result she may have a claim against the Council. But so far Miss X has not suffered damage to her vehicle and it is not for us to say whether it has complied with the law; this requires interpretation of its duties under the Highways Act 1980 and is an issue better put to the courts.

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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 Miss X significant injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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