This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who have concerns that the council did not follow the correct procedures when disposing of some land and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.
I am unhappy about the council’s decision to sell or dispose of land or buildings; or about the way it went about such a sale or disposal. Can the Ombudsman help me?
Yes, in some circumstances. Councils have the right to dispose of their assets (such as land or buildings), and they have wide discretion to do this in any manner they wish. Generally, they must obtain the best price they can for those assets.
The Ombudsman cannot question councils’ legal rights to sell or otherwise dispose of land, or question the merits of their decisions about whether and how to do it. We can investigate complaints about administrative fault in the decision-making process.
But cannot deal with a complaint that affects all or most people living within the Council’s area. By “most”, we mean the majority of people living in the area. Likewise, we would not usually investigate complaints that a council has been ‘wasting public money’ or ‘could have obtained a higher price’. This is because the person complaining needs to show he or she has been personally affected by the matter.
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 consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it dealt with the sale or disposal of its assets and whether this has affected you adversely. Some of the issues we might look at include if the council:
- goes back on its agreement to sell or lease land or property it owns
- gives you misleading or inaccurate information about the land or buildings that it is selling or disposing of
- fails to carry out any necessary consultation with those affected by the sale
- delays unreasonably disposing of derelict property, or
- fails to follow its procedures, or has no procedures, for the disposal of land.
What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?
It depends on what went wrong and how that affected you. If we find that something has gone wrong, we can ask the council to:
- act to put the matter right
- remedy any financial loss, or
- review or improve its procedures to make sure the same problems do not happen in future.
Examples of some complaints we have considered
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.