Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 20 Sep 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s communication with her and dealt with her highway and other concerns. The Council has offered Ms X £300 for the communication failings which remedies the injustice. I will ask the Council to consider further how it is dealing with repairs to benches.
- Ms X complains the Council failed to communicate with her properly and failed to contact her when it promised to do so. She says it has not dealt properly with her complaints about concerns raised since summer 2020. Ms X says she has felt ignored. She wants the Council to deal with her concerns and pay her compensation for her stress and inconvenience.
- Ms X complains the Council has allowed the condition of the city to deteriorate. She says:
- Roads and pavements are in poor condition. She has reported the road system around Woodland Drive.
- She has reported overflowing bins, lack of street cleaning, overgrown hedges, and two broken benches about half a mile from where she lives.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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:
- any fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
- further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
- we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- We cannot investigate something that affects all or most of the people in a council’s area. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(7), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council. I have discussed the complaint with Ms X by telephone and considered internet street scene views of the area. I have clarified with the Council the position of the bench repairs and considered photographs of the damage to the benches.
- I will not investigate Ms X’s complaint for the following reasons:
- The Council has remedied any injustice to Ms X caused by its communication and complaint handling. The Council has replied to the complaint in detail and covered the issues arising from the ‘report a problem form’. It has offered £300 for Ms X’s distress, raised expectations and time and trouble. Ms X tells me the “crux” of her complaint is the communication. I consider the Council’s compensation offer and explanation is a satisfactory way of concluding this part of the complaint.
- I will not consider further the specific issues Ms X has raised during the last year:
- We cannot investigate a general complaint that the Council has let the city deteriorate because it is outside our jurisdiction. The law says we cannot investigate a complaint affecting 'all or most' people (see paragraph 4 above).
- There is insufficient personal injustice caused to Ms X from the highways issues or the position on Woodland Drive which is someway from her home. There is no indication of a significant problem affecting Ms X in relation to street cleaning or bins.
- I will ask the Council to review how it is handling bench repairs given the explanation that has been given about budget pressures, the lack of a specialist repairer and the only option sometimes being the removal of the bench until funds are available. Ms X may also raise the issue with local councillors.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s communication with her and how it has dealt with her highway and other concerns. The Council has offered Ms X £300 for the communication failings which remedies the injustice. I will ask the Council to consider further how it is dealing with repairs to benches.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman