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Newcastle upon Tyne City Council (19 016 892)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complains the Council refuses to provide a disabled parking space for him on the cobbled verge outside his home. He says this is a decision based purely on cost and he is at a disadvantage because he cannot afford it. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint as we have not seen evidence of fault in the Council’s actions. Further investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome and we cannot achieve the outcome Mr X is seeking.

The complaint

  1. Mr X says he has difficulty walking and wants the Council to install a disabled parking bay on the cobbled verge outside his home.
  2. Mr X wants the cobbled area outside his home brought up to standard so a disabled parking bay can be installed. The Council estimates this will cost £2,500. Mr X says the Council is discriminating against him because he cannot afford this.
  3. Mr X also complains the Council passed him to different departments giving him irrelevant information.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  2. 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 could add to any previous investigation by the Council
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered:
    • the information provided by Mr X
    • the Council’s responses to Mr X’s complaint
    • the Council’s policy for installing vehicle crossovers
    • Mr X’s comments on the draft version of this decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr X says he has mobility issues. He asked the Council to install a disabled parking bay on a cobbled verge outside his home.
  2. The Council has advised Mr X that it will not introduce a parking bay on the cobbles as the area is not suitable for vehicles. It is aware that other road users park on the cobbled verges, but it will not encourage this behaviour.
  3. The Council has a policy on dropped kerbs or vehicle crossovers which is applicable in this case. This policy says footways are built to carry pedestrians who don't weigh as much as a motor vehicle. Without a crossing, you may damage the kerbstones or utility services, such as gas or water mains that may be below the surface of the pavement or verge.
  4. In this case Mr X wants a cobbled area which is not built for vehicular use, to be converted to a disabled parking space. Therefore, the following work is required:
    • Lowering of the kerb at the edge of the road to allow access
    • Strengthening of the area
    • Moving or protecting of any pipes or cables belonging to public utilities underneath the area
  5. The Council says that in response to his enquiries, it told Mr X it would cost about £2,500 to bring the cobbled area outside his home up to the required standard for car parking. It has also explained that, even if a parking bay were installed, it could not be for Mr X’s private use as the land is part of the publicly owned highway.
  6. Mr X says he cannot afford this, and the Council will not allow him to pay by instalments. He says the Council is therefore discriminating against him because he cannot afford to pay for the work.

Assessment

  1. There is no statutory requirement for the Council to agree to Mr X’s request to install a disabled parking bay.
  2. The Council policy on dropped kerbs says full payment is required before it carries out any work.
  3. There is no statutory duty on the Council to allow any individual to pay for the cost of bringing the footway up to the necessary standard for vehicle use by instalments. Nor is the Council required to fund these costs or create a parking space on public highway land for any individual.
  4. I understand Mr X disagrees with this view. However, I will not investigate his complaint about the Council’s requiring him to pay for altering the cobbled area outside his home to a disabled parking bay. Nor its decision not to allow him to pay by instalments. I have not seen any evidence of fault in the Council’s actions. Also, it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council. Nor can we achieve the outcome Mr X is seeking.
  5. Mr X also complains the Council passed him around to different departments which provided conflicting information before referring him to the complaints team.
  6. I will not investigate this part of the complaint. It is not a good use of public resources to investigate complaints about complaint procedures, if we are not dealing with the substantive issue.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate this complaint. I have not seen evidence of fault in the Council’s decision to require Mr X to pay to install a disabled parking bay outside his home for his use. It is unlikely we can add to the previous investigation by the Council. And we cannot achieve the outcome he is seeking.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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