Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 08 Feb 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about the Council’s decisions that a footpath is in an acceptable condition and that Mr B must report any future concerns in writing only. Further consideration of the complaint is unlikely to find fault by the Council.
- The complainant, whom I shall call Mr B, says the Council has failed to ensure the track leading to his home remains accessible and in good repair. Mr B also complains the Council has now told him he can only make new reports about the condition of the track in writing rather than by telephone.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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)
- 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. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr B provided with his complaint and the Council’s letter to him of 19 December 2017. I considered the previous complaints Mr B has raised with the Ombudsman and sent a draft decision to Mr B to invite comments. I have also discussed this complaint with Mr B.
What I found
- Mr B’s home is accessed by an unmade track that serves other residential properties and a farm. There is a public right of way along the track. The public right of way is as a footpath.
- Mr B says the landowner has ploughed the edges of the track, deliberately damaged the drainage to ensure the track floods and failed to repair large potholes. Mr B complains the Council has failed to act to make the landowner bring the track back to an acceptable condition. Mr B says large vehicles can no longer access his property and the track is unsuitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
- The Ombudsman has considered three previous complaints from Mr B about the maintenance of the track and the Council’s responses to his reports of damage. The Ombudsman has previously decided there was no fault by the Council about the condition of the track because it had:
- explained the public right of way it has a duty to maintain is limited to walkers using the track as a footpath, not motor vehicles
- carried out inspections in response to Mr B’s complaints and explained it was satisfied the footpath was accessible for walkers
- provided Mr B with advice that some of his issues with his neighbour and the condition of the track relate to private land rights the Council has no power to resolve or intervene in
- discussed the matter with Mr B’s neighbour and secured repairs where they were needed
- agreed to monitor the condition of the public footpath
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because further consideration of the complaint is unlikely to find fault by the Council.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman