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Single complaints about West Norfolk Council and Breckland Council upheld by Local Government ombudsman

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One complaint against each of West Norfolk Council and Breckland Council was upheld by the ombudsman during 2020/21, new data shows.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigates complaints and this week issued data for the year.

For West Norfolk Council, the upheld complaint related to a visit to a resident by an enforcement agency acting on the council’s behalf.

Mr B, as he is referred to, was unhappy about the enforcement of a parking ticket he received in December 2018.

He said the council sent documentation about the ticket to his old address, as he had not changed his address with the DVLA immediately after he moved home. This meant he did not respond to the council’s letters and the case was passed to bailiffs for enforcement.

Mr B said the bailiffs found out his new address and told the council, but it failed to re-issue the documentation to the correct address. He says this meant the first he heard about the parking ticket was when the bailiffs turned up at his home and threatened to take his car.

Mr B also complained about the conduct of the bailiffs, saying they pressured him into paying £533 to prevent them taking his car and caused £1,000 damage while loading it onto a truck.

He said they failed to record all of the visit on a body-worn camera.

Following an investigation, the ombudsman found that there were reasonable grounds for complaint.

It said: “An enforcement agency, acting on the council’s behalf, failed to fully record a visit to Mr B, which was not in line with its policy. This was fault by the council.

“However, the agency has acknowledged this and has dealt with it as a staff training matter, which is a satisfactory remedy.

“There was no other fault in how the agency dealt with Mr B’s staff conduct complaint.

“We have not investigated Mr B’s complaint about how the council issued documentation about his parking ticket, because he could take this matter to court (by applying to the Traffic Enforcement Centre).”

The complaint was the only one of three made to the ombudsman about West Norfolk Council which was upheld.

The 33 per cent statistic compares to an average of 53 per cent in similar authorities.

Meanwhile, the complaint upheld against Breckland Council was one of two which were investigated, therefore giving a 50 per cent rate.

It related to planning permission for a housing development near Mr X’s home without, he claimed, properly considering the impact on his property and the surrounding area.

The ombudsman said: “There is no fault in the way the council considered a planning application for residential housing on land next to Mr X’s property.

“The council was not required to consider the impact of the development on his ability to access his septic tank to empty it.

“The council has accepted it failed to identify discrepancies in the site plan which accompanied the application but this has not had an impact on its decision to grant planning permission.”

Nationally, over the past year the ombudsman has upheld a greater proportion of investigations – 67 per cent – than ever before. This continues an upward trend since the ombudsman started publishing its uphold rate.

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