Decision : Upheld
Decision date : 27 Mar 2022
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains about how the Council dealt with his reports of cars blocking his driveway and how it subsequently dealt with his complaints about the matter. There was fault by the Council because it did not provide an update on its actions to Mr X. However, the identified fault did not cause Mr X significant injustice to warrant further pursuit of this complaint by the Ombudsman.
- I refer to the complainant here as Mr X. Mr X complains about how the Council dealt with his reports of cars blocking his driveway and how it subsequently dealt with his complaints about the matter.
- Mr X says:
- The Council did not investigate a number of issues relating to vehicles blocking his driveway within the timescales it advised.
- The Council confirmed it had no records of any issues he raised both on its website and via telephone when the Council clearly did and he provided evidence.
- the Council did not send a reply to his complaint within its published timescales. He says it also would not register a complaint about its failure to respond to the complaint within the published timescales.
- The Council advised it would consider applying its unreasonably persistent complainant’s policy against him for reporting the matter again.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
- there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
- any fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
- we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
- further investigation would not lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants, or
- there is another body better placed to consider this complaint,
- it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- 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 read the complaint and background information provided by Mr X and the Council. I sent a draft decision statement to Mr X and the Council. I considered the comments of both parties on it.
What I found
- Mr X complains about inconsiderate parking by visitors to his neighbour. Mr X’s neighbour lets the property to holidaymakers. This means the visitors to his neighbour’s home often park on a private driveway and sometimes block Mr X’s access to his home.
- The Council can take enforcement action against vehicles causing an obstruction. But the vehicles must be parked on the public highway and not on private property. Mr X says visitors to his neighbour’s home park on the pavement adjacent to the private driveway.
- Mr X made two reports of a blocked driveway in the summer of 2021. The Council visited the scene although Mr X says officers did not visit. Officers found vehicles either owned or connected to the owner of the neighbouring property on the driveway. It appears officers spoke to Mr X’s neighbour or the car owners. Officers concluded it was a neighbour dispute between Mr X and his neighbour rather than a driver from elsewhere parking on the driveway.
- Mr X made further reports. Officers did not respond to one report. Officers visited on another and spoke to someone at the neighbouring property. On four other occasions, officers visited but left the ‘cases’ open that is to say they did not close them or provide Mr X with updates on action taken. On another occasion in January 2022 after closure of Mr X’s complaint, officers visited but did not find any parked cars. The Council’s view is that Mr X and his neighbour are engaged in a dispute and so park inconsiderately or block each other’s driveway.
- The Council acknowledged fault with its handling of some of Mr X’s reports where officers did not provide him with updates on action they had taken. It apologised to Mr X.
- The Council already accepted fault in its handling of Mr X’s reports and apologised to him for the instances where officers had not taken action or acted but failed to inform him of action taken. I consider the apology is the appropriate remedy for the understandable frustration Mr X felt at the lack of courtesy.
- The apology did not cover the entirety of Mr X’s grievances. The Council did not address, for instance, Mr X’s complaint that a new complaint about a failure to meet timescales was not registered or his grievance that he was told the Council would consider initiating the unacceptable behaviour policy if he persisted with his complaint after he received its final complaint response.
- It is evident Mr X and his neighbour are having difficulties communicating with each other. While the Council has a statutory duty with regard to clearing obstructions on the highway, it is not for the Council to resolve the difficulties between Mr X and his neighbour. The difficulties are likely to persist unless Mr X and his neighbour discuss and resolve matters between themselves.
- So while Mr X can continue to make reports of obstruction, it is for the Council to respond and take action it considers appropriate and proportionate. The action will range from talking to his neighbour to taking formal action. But the action the Council will take cannot be predetermined by the outcome of this complaint.
- The Council did not decide to stop visiting Mr X’s property over his reports of obstruction. This is clear because it still visited his property after the end of the complaint process and it is right the Council continues to do so.
- I recognise Mr X remains aggrieved. But given the circumstances set out in the preceding paragraphs, I do not consider these matters caused Mr X an injustice that now warrants further pursuit of this complaint by, or a remedy from, the Ombudsman.
- There was fault by the Council. It apologised to Mr X. Mr X has not suffered significant injustice to warrant further pursuit of this complaint by the Ombudsman.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman