This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who have concerns about how their council collects and deals with household rubbish and commercial/industrial waste.
Organisations the Ombudsman can look at
We hold councils to account for services they pay other organisations, including private companies, to carry out on their behalf. This means we can still investigate complaints about those services.
I can't get all my rubbish in my wheelie bin, and the council won't collect additional bags. Can the Ombudsman help?
Councils have a duty to collect household waste free of charge, but they can limit the number of bins they are prepared to collect. The council can tell you where you must put your bin, and what you can and can’t put in it. The council can impose other rules too, provided they are not unreasonable, and it has given you adequate notice. . For example, it can require you to use a certain box or bin or change the waste collection day. We may be able to help if you think the council has been unreasonable or if your personal circumstances make it difficult for you to comply with the council’s requests. We may also get involved if you experience repeated missed collections of you rubbish, recycling or garden waste.
The council is charging for garden waste – I don’t have any trees in my garden so I should not have to pay?
A council does not have to collect garden waste but it is a service it can choose to provide. It is allowed to make a charge and most councils do. The charge applies to everyone who chooses to use the service regardless of whether the leaves and other garden waste comes from trees and vegetation that do not belong to the resident (i.e all the leaves fall from street trees). If the person thinks the charge is excessive, or unfair, they do not have to use the service.
How do I complain?
You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.
Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable you can complain to us.
You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.
If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?
We deal with complaints about household and commercial refuse collections; transfer, landfill and public amenity sites; fly tipping and notices served on people to clean up their gardens. We look at the facts of each case. If you have kept records or taken photographs, these may be very helpful. We consider whether the council has done something wrong and, if it has, the effect this has had on you. Some faults we might find are that the council:
- unreasonably refused to collect all household waste
- failed to issue a warning before taking action
- failed to ensure a landfill site was not a nuisance to its neighbours, or
- charged for clearing rubbish from private land without giving the owner a chance to clear it first.
What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?
It depends on what the consequences are for you and what fault we find, but generally:
- we would ask the council, wherever possible, to do what is necessary to put you back in the position you would have been in but for its fault and to ensure that, in future, the fault is not repeated
- if it is not possible to remedy your complaint in this way, we may ask the council to pay you a financial remedy, and/or
- if your complaint reveals faults in the council’s policies or procedures, we would ask the council to put those right.
Examples of some complaints we have considered
The on-going missed collections caused frustration and inconvenience, especially for someone registered for assisted collection. We asked the council to apologise, check that everyone knows the location of the agreed collection point, carry out a period of monitoring and pay Mrs A..
We could not help Mr S because the council had provided a good reason for not collecting the recycling and it had given advice to help Mr S manage his recycling. In addition, the decision not to give Mr S a bigger bin reflected the policy so there was nothing for us to investigate.
Examples of some complaints we will not usually consider
Other sources of information
Many councils will have their refuse collection policy on their website. Find your council’s website at www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council
Focus Report - Lifting the Lid on Bin complaints.
Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.