The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs Y complains about the way the Council dealt with her application for a vehicle crossover from her property onto the public highway. The Ombudsman has found fault by the Council causing injustice. The Council has agreed to remedy this by making a payment of £250 to Mrs Y to reflect the distress, time and trouble caused by the fault.
- The complainant, who I am calling Mrs Y, complains about the way the Council dealt with her application for a vehicle crossover from her property onto the public highway. She says:
- there were long delays by the Council and it failed to communicate with her about the proposed work.
- when its contractors finally attended, the work was not completed satisfactorily and left in a dangerous condition. Power cables were not buried properly and became exposed.
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 Mrs Y and considered all the information she and the Council have provided about the complaint.
- I invited Mrs Y and the Council to comment on a draft version of this decision. I considered their comments before making my final decision.
What I found
What should happen
- The Council has a duty to regulate the placement and construction of dropped kerbs (vehicle crossovers) under Section 184 of the Highways Act 1980. The Council’s policy says when an application for a vehicle crossover is permitted, the Council will inform the resident of timescales and costs, following a paid-for visit by the Council.
- Mrs Y applied to the Council for a vehicle crossover in 2019. The Council carried out an inspection in November 2019. It did not provide a quote for the work until February 2020. Mrs Y accepted the quote and paid the required amount of £6,900 to the Council. But she heard nothing further about the completion of the work, despite chasing the Council many times.
- In August 2020, Mrs Y complained to us about the Council’s delay and communication failures. Following our contact with it about the complaint, the Council arranged for its contractors to carry out the work in September 2020.
- The Council’s contractors did not complete the work properly. There were initial problems because they did not construct the crossover to the correct width, having failed to move a streetlight. They returned and widened the crossover by moving the light. But the work was of a poor standard and the power supply cables were not buried at the correct depth. The cables were exposed when the surface crumbled, creating a risk of serious injury to Mrs Y and others using the vehicle crossover.
- Mrs Y complained again to the Council, and to us. In response the Council said:
- There had been delays and communication failures on its part.
- The work had been done poorly and not to the standard it expected from its contractors.
- The power cables had not been buried at the correct depth. This could have caused serious damage or injury and required urgent attention as a potential health and safety breach.
- It upheld the complaint and apologised for the faults. It would arrange to construct the vehicle crossover to an acceptable standard and reposition the cables at the correct depth.
- The remedial work was completed. The Council offered Mrs Y £125 in recognition of the inconvenience and frustration its faults had caused. Mrs Y did not feel this was an adequate response.
Analysis - was there fault by the Council causing injustice?
- The Council has accepted there were communication failures and delays in arranging to carry out the work. And then a failure by its contractors to complete the work properly or safely. This is fault.
- The Council apologised for the fault and arranged to complete the work to an acceptable and safe standard. Mrs Y now has the vehicle crossover she applied and paid for.
- But the faults have caused Mrs Y avoidable time and trouble, chasing the Council and making her complaints, together with distress and worry about the standard of work and safety issues, over a period of about a year. I do not consider the Council’s offer of £125 fairly reflects the extent of the injustice caused. My view is £250 would be an appropriate amount.
- To remedy the injustice caused by the above faults, and within four weeks from the date of our final decision, the Council has agreed to:
- Pay Mrs Y £250 to reflect the avoidable time, trouble and distress caused by the Council’s faults.
- This figure is inclusive of, not in addition to, the Council’s previous offer and is a symbolic amount based on the Ombudsman’s published remedies.
- I have found fault by the Council causing Mrs Y injustice. I have completed my investigation on the basis the above action is a suitable way of remedying the injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman