Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 28 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s failure to advise him on how to challenge a penalty charge notice. Information about the appeals process is widely available and the issue has not caused significant enough injustice to warrant the cost of investigation. We also cannot achieve the outcome Mr X wants.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complains the Council failed to advise him on how he could challenge a penalty charge notice (PCN).
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’. 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
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- London Tribunals (previously known as the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service) considers parking and moving traffic offence appeals for London.
How I considered this complaint
- I reviewed the details of Mr X’s complaint, shared my draft decision with him and invited his comments.
What I found
- Mr X disputes a PCN issued by the Council for a parking contravention. He says he contacted the Council for information on how to challenge the PCN but the council officer he spoke to was rude and abusive.
- The Ombudsman investigate this complaint. Information about how to challenge a PCN is provided on the printed PCN itself and on any postal correspondence from the issuing authority. The process is standard as it is set out in law and further information is available online. Although the council officer Mr X spoke to could not put him through to the correct department this does not stop him from appealing the PCN. To do this Mr X may make ‘informal representations’ to the Council in writing within 28 days. If the Council does not accept his informal representations it will issue him a ‘notice to owner’ by post. Mr X will then have a further 28 days to make ‘formal representations’ to the Council. If the Council does not accept these it will issue a ‘notice of rejection’. Mr X will then be able to appeal to London Tribunals.
- Although Mr X and his partner have suffered some distress from dealing with the Council on this issue this mostly stems from the PCN itself. Any injustice caused by his contact with the Council is secondary and does not warrant investigation by the Ombudsman. We also cannot achieve the outcome Mr X wants, which is for the Council to sack the officer he spoke to. We have no powers to recommend disciplinary action against individual council officers and would not look at whether the Council correctly issued the PCN as it would be reasonable for Mr X to appeal.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because Mr X’s substantive injustice stems from the PCN and if Mr X disputes this it would be reasonable for him to appeal.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman