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Herefordshire Council (20 007 042)

Category : Transport and highways > Public transport

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Dec 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the advice he received from the Council’s civil enforcement officer about parking his bus to use the toilet. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault causing Mr X significant injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr X, complains a council civil enforcement officer (CEO) advised he was not allowed to stop his bus in a bus stop to go to the toilet. He also complains about the handling of his telephone call about the issue and that the CEO was not wearing a face covering and did not maintain proper social distance when speaking with him.

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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 we would find fault, or
  • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed Mr X’s complaint and the Council’s responses. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and invited his comments.

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What I found

  1. Mr X drives a service bus. In September 2020 he stopped his bus in a bus stop once he had completed his route so that he could go to the toilet. When he came out a CEO spoke to him and explained he must not use the bus stop to park while he goes to the toilet. Mr X says the CEO told him his bus was a ‘coach’ and that he needed to use a different space as bus stops are only for passengers to board and alight buses and for changes in bus crew.
  2. Mr X was not happy with the CEO’s advice and called the Council to question it. He complains the person he spoke to on the phone did not properly understand or deal with his query and terminated the call. Mr X complained to the Council and says its responses have caused him great stress. He says he now refuses to drive service runs through the Council’s area which causes him financial loss. He also says the CEO did not wear a mask and did not keep an adequate distance while speaking to him.
  3. The Council confirms the CEO’s advice to Mr X was correct and that it aimed to help Mr X so that he did not receive a penalty charge notice (PCN) for parking incorrectly in the future. It is unlikely we would say this was fault and it did not cause Mr X significant injustice.
  4. It is Mr X’s choice whether to accept future service runs in the Council’s area and he cannot expect the Council to compensate him for any loss of earnings which result from his decision. It is also up to Mr X to decide whether to accept and follow the advice the CEO and the Council provided. If he believes it is incorrect he may decide not to follow it and if he receives a PCN he may appeal against it.
  5. The Council has explained its CEOs do not need to wear a face covering as their work is outside but they are expected to socially distance as recommended by the Government. If Mr X felt the CEO was too close he could have moved away and there is no suggestion that Mr X has experienced any issues as a result of his proximity to the CEO.
  6. Mr X is also unhappy with the way the Council dealt with his complaint. But it is not a good use of public resources to look at the Council’s complaints handling if we are not going to look at the substantive issue complained about. We will not therefore investigate this issue separately.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault by the Council causing Mr X significant injustice.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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