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Surrey County Council (18 015 907)

Category : Transport and highways > Public transport

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 01 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about the way the Council handled the complainant’s bus pass application. This is because there is insufficient evidence of injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr X, wants compensation because the Council failed to correct a bus pass application error in 2013. This caused inconvenience when he renewed the pass in 2018.

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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 the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s response. I considered the decision made by the Information Commissioner and comments Mr X made in response to a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. In 2013 Mr X told the Council it had wrongly linked his bus pass with his father’s address and details. The Council said it would correct the records. The Council did not do this.
  2. The records remained incorrect. This meant Mr X did not get a renewal letter in 2018. When he realised his pass was about to expire Mr X had to go to the library to ask how to renew it. He then had to go home to get proof of identity and address because he had to make a new application. He had to go back to the library with the documents.
  3. The Council apologised and corrected the records. It explained that the staff involved in 2013 no longer work for the Council.
  4. Mr X complained to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner said the Council did not accurately store Mr X’s personal information. However, as the error happened more than five years ago, and has been corrected, the Commissioner did not recommend any further action.
  5. Mr X wants compensation.

Assessment

  1. The Council made a mistake and then compounded that error by not correcting the records when Mr X pointed out the mistake. The Council should have ensured Mr X’s details were corrected in 2013. The Council’s failure to correct the records in 2013 meant it did not send a renewal letter in 2018 and Mr X had to make a new application rather than a renewal. Mr X had to make two trips to the library and provide documents to support a new application.
  2. Mr X has been inconvenienced but it does not represent a level of injustice that requires compensation or an investigation by the Ombudsman.
  3. Mr X says the Council wasted his time by signposting him to the Information Commissioner. However, the Information Commissioner criticised the Council for not storing Mr X’s data correctly so it was not inappropriate for the Council to suggest Mr X contact the Information Commissioner.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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