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Peterborough City Council (19 014 093)

Category : Transport and highways > Rights of way

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 29 Jan 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr B complains about the Council’s handling of matters relating to a right of way over farmland and its handling of his complaints about these matters. The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council or injustice caused to Mr B to warrant an investigation and an investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to as Mr B, says the Council has not treated properly his complaint about a famer whose activities impact negatively on a right of way over farmland Mr B walks on and about its delay in responding to his complaints about these matters. He says walking along the right of way is difficult for him and that the Council should take action against the farmer and improve its complaint handling process.

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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, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. In considering the complaint I reviewed the information provided by Mr B and the Council. I gave Mr B the opportunity to comment on my draft decision and considered what he said.

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What I found

  1. In 2018 Mr B complained to the Council about an overgrown right of way along a path he likes to walk. After an officer checked the path and found it to be walkable, the Council responded to his complaint and advised him how he could escalate it if he was not happy with the response.
  2. It did not hear from him again until February 2019 when Mr B contacted the Council to complain about a farmer who he said left mud on the roads from his tractor, whose heavy vehicles were damaging the road surface and that he should be made to pay for the road upkeep. He also complained about mud from a dirt bridge and mud and vehicle ruts on the right of way. He said he would welcome a meeting about these matters.
  3. As Mr B had not referred to his earlier complaint, the Council dealt with the concerns he had raised in February as a service request but it subsequently addressed the issues raised by Mr B under its complaints procedure and as part of its early consideration of matters offered to meet with Mr B.
  4. The Council’s responses to him set out the action it had taken and its contact with the farmer. It also addressed the specific concerns Mr B had raised, including those about its handling of his complaint which Mr B had not been happy with. However, having completed its consideration of his complaint, the Council confirmed it was satisfied with the steps taken by the Council’s Highway Services to try and resolve matters but concluded that further investigation was not merited.

Assessment

  1. I have seen no evidence to suggest there has been fault by the Council or injustice caused to Mr B sufficient to warrant an investigation by the Ombudsman.
  2. The Council responded to Mr B’s concerns and took appropriate action to try and resolve matters. While I note Mr B is not satisfied with the outcome to his complaint, I do not consider an investigation by the Ombudsman would be likely to lead to a different outcome nor are we able to implement some of the specific outcomes Mr B seeks, such as fining the farmer and sacking Highway staff.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council or injustice caused to Mr B to warrant an investigation and an investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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