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London Borough of Harrow (18 016 011)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman does not propose investigating Mrs X’s complaint about the Council’s handling of a Penalty Charge Notice. This is because the Council has cancelled it, as Mrs X wanted, and there is no worthwhile result achievable by investigation.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complained the Council wrongly issued her with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and ignored her representations. She wanted the Council to cancel the Notice or give her an appeal right.

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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 further investigation will lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)
  2. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we are satisfied with the actions a council has taken or proposes to take. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (7), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information put in by Mrs X with her complaint.
  2. Mrs X had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. The Council issued Mrs X with a PCN.
  2. The Council issued a Charge Certificate giving Mrs X the chance to pay a reduced fine of £65.
  3. Mrs X says she put in an online challenge to the PCN which the Council acknowledged by e-mail.
  4. The Council issued a reminder about the PCN, increasing the fine to £195.
  5. Mrs X’s husband e-mailed the Council to say she had put in a challenge. He asked the Council to review it and keep the PCN at £65.
  6. The Council responded and claimed Mrs X had not put in representations within the time limit.
  7. Mrs X employed a solicitor to look in to her application for a right of appeal against the PCN to the Tribunal.
  8. Mrs X complained to the Ombudsman about the Council’s actions.
  9. Mrs X said the Council had removed her right of appeal and acted unreasonably. She said she did not want to follow the enforcement route and ask the Court to hear her appeal.
  10. Mrs X said the Council had acted unfairly in refusing to accept she had challenged the PCN from the outset.
  11. The Ombudsman asked the Council to explain its management of the PCN procedure.
  12. The Council accepted an officer had failed to take note it acknowledged receipt of Mrs X’s challenge. The Council said because of this error it would cancel the PCN, as it had failed to deal with Mrs X’s representation within the time allowed in the legislation.

Analysis

  1. The Council has accepted it was at fault and cancelled the PCN.
  2. Had Mrs X used an appeal, and been successful, it would have put her back to the beginning of the process again. This would have reinstated the opportunity to challenge the PCN and, if unsuccessful, pay the fine at the reduced rate or continue to the Tribunal.
  3. An Ombudsman investigation would not have achieved more for Mrs X.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council has cancelled Mrs X’s PCN as she wanted, so there is no further worthwhile result achievable by investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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