The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss D complains the Council delayed processing her application to remove a disabled parking bay so she could have a dropped kerb installed. The Ombudsman has found evidence of fault by the Council. He has upheld the complaint and completed the investigation because the Council agrees to the recommended actions including a time and trouble payment.
- The complainant (whom I refer to as Miss D) says the Council delayed processing her application to remove a disabled parking bay (DP Bay) outside her home in 2018 before the Council made the area a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ). This meant Miss D would have to pay the Council up to £4,000 to have a dropped kerb installed.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have spoken to Miss D and considered the information she provided. I asked the Council questions and carefully examined its response. The Council was unable to provide any supporting evidence in this case.
- I shared my draft decision with both parties.
What I found
- In November 2017 Miss D was granted planning permission by the Council to convert her garden into a parking space. Miss D submitted an application for a dropped kerb in January 2018. The Council told her she needed to apply to have the DP Bay outside her home removed first. On 5 February Miss D made an online application. She chased up the Council in May and June. Information from Miss D shows the Council notified her in June that it had considered her application, consulted neighbours, and not received any objections. It would remove the DP Bay by 22 August. The Council has told me the work was not included on a batch of work orders for the period. As a result, the DP Bay was not removed at that time. Subsequently in 2018 the street became part of a CPZ.
- In 2019 Miss D applied to the Council for a dropped kerb installation. In February, the Council told her it would cost £4,000 to consider her application (or £2,000 as part of a batch of applications). That was to cover the cost of altering the CPZ and a consultation process. Miss D complained to the Council in March. She said the delay in resolving the DP Bay removal meant she was now facing fees that could have been avoided. The Council received the complaint but failed to reply.
- Miss D pursued her complaint in August. The Council responded in December. It failed to acknowledge the level of error in the case and maintained she needed to pay the £2,000 to £4,000 fee if she wanted a dropped kerb.
What should have happened
- A resident can apply to the Council to have a DP Bay removed from outside their home. They submit an online form. The Council website states the removal of a DP Bay may take up to six months. A resident cannot apply for a dropped kerb until a DP Bay is removed.
- An application for a dropped kerb is made to the Council via an online form. If the Council approves the application, it will require the applicant to use approved contractors and pay for the construction costs.
- If a CPZ is in place the Council cannot approve a dropped kerb application without following a consultation process, altering the CPZ and having recourse to a Traffic Management Order. The Council requires the applicant to cover the costs of this process which ranges from £2,000 to £4,000.
Was there fault by the Council
- The Council failed to process Miss D’s case in a timely manner. It failed to include removal of the DP Bay in a batch of work orders which meant it was not removed, as promised, in August 2018. As a result, a CPZ then came into effect leaving Miss D facing up to £4,000 fees to have a dropped kerb application considered. That could and should have been avoided if the Council had acted correctly.
- The Council failed to keep Miss D updated when she contacted it. It also did not respond to her formal complaint in March 2019. It then significantly delayed replying to her escalated complaint later that year. Once a response was issued it failed to acknowledge the fault or offer a remedy.
- The Council also did not keep records on this case. I find that extremely concerning. As a matter of good practice, the Ombudsman would expect basic records to have been retained.
Did the fault cause an injustice
- The fault by the Council meant Miss D has been put to unnecessary time and trouble pursuing this matter.
- I am pleased the Council has now accepted that it will waive the £2,000 to £4,000 fee to assess Miss D’s dropped kerb application. In addition, the Council has agreed to my recommendations and will:
- Pay Miss D £250 for time and trouble;
- Set out for the Ombudsman what steps will be taken to improve record keeping in relation to DP Bay removals and dropped kerb applications.
- I have completed the investigation and upheld the complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman