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London Borough of Waltham Forest (19 020 194)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will use his discretion not to investigate this complaint about a refund for a penalty charge notice. This is because there are actions the complainant could take to resolve the problem and it is unlikely an investigation would lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, complains that the Council will not re-issue a cheque even though he sent a copy of his mother’s death certificate. Mr X wants the refund and compensation.

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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 an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.

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

  1. We can decide whether to start an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I also considered information from the Council which includes a copy of a letter from Mr X returning the cheque. I considered comments Mr X made in reply to a draft of this decision.

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What I found

What happened

  1. In August Mr X’s daughter was driving her grandmother’s (Mrs X) car. The Council issued a penalty charge notice for doing a prohibited turn. In early September Mrs X died. A few days later Mr X paid the £65 fine. He says he paid it from his bank account and he can prove this point. The Council says it came from an account held by Mrs X.
  2. The Council cancelled all the penalty charges notices issued for a few days in August at this location because the signs had been vandalised. It sent Mrs X a cheque for £65. There was no covering letter but the cheque was attached to a sheet which referred to the reference number for the fine. Mr X could not pay the cheque into his account because it was made out to his mother.
  3. In November Mr X wrote to the Council explaining what had happened and asking for the cheque to be re-issued in his name. The letter said that a copy of the death certificate was enclosed. Mr X returned the cheque which the Council cancelled.
  4. Mr X chased the Council in December because he had not had a reply. He says the parking contractor he spoke to was unhelpful. Mr X complained and provided evidence from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that it had accepted the information about his mother’s death.
  5. In response to his complaint the Council said it had no record of receiving the death certificate. It checked different departments but there was no record of the certificate. It said it needed the death certificate before it could re-issue the refund. On at least two occasions it asked Mr X to send a copy of the certificate so it could process the refund. It said the information from the DWP was not enough for it to issue the refund. It apologised for the upset caused to Mr X.
  6. Mr X is certain he sent the death certificate. He does not want to send another copy because it is already on the Council’s system and because he sent information from the DWP. He says he has been treated badly. He wants the cheque and compensation for all the unnecessary stress.

Assessment

  1. Mr X has had a frustrating time during a period of bereavement. However, I will not start an investigation for the following reasons.
  2. While I accept Mr X is adamant he sent the certificate, and he also sent the DWP letter, he can resolve this problem by sending the certificate again. If he does this the Council will send him a cheque for £65. I appreciate Mr X is reluctant to do this but there is no reason to start an investigation when the problem can easily be resolved by Mr X sending the certificate. And, while he has other concerns about what happened, these are not sufficient to warrant an investigation or compensation.
  3. In addition, it is unlikely I could add to the Council’s response. It would be impossible for me to find out what happened to the certificate. It is possible Mr X forgot to enclose it or it is possible it was lost somewhere in a Council office. Either way an investigation could not find out what happened and, as I have said, the problem can be resolved by Mr X sending a copy of the certificate to the Council.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because it is unlikely I could add to the Council’s response and because there is action Mr X can take to resolve the problem and get the refund.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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