Complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman LGO
If you have made a complaint to the local authority about the enforcement of a Liability Order or unpaid penalty charge notice by a bailiff/enforcement agent and are unhappy with the councils response, you may look at complaining to the Local Government Ombudsman LGO
Complaints that the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) can consider
The type of complaints that the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) can consider are where the complaint concerns the actions of a bailiff/enforcement officer in collecting council tax or NNDR arrears, or road traffic debts (parking or CCTV etc) on behalf of the local authority. The LGO cannot consider complaints regarding the enforcement of Dart Charge penalties.
Do I need to make a complaint to the local authority first?
Yes you do. The local authority must be given the opportunity to address any complaint first and if you are dissatisfied with their final decision you can then request that the Ombudsman reconsider the response. Only in exceptional cases will the Ombudsman consider a complaint that has not first been through the local authorities complaints procedure. In fact, since the new regulations took effect in 2014 the Ombudsman has rejected two-thirds of the complaints received for this very reason.
Is there a time limit for making a complaint to the Ombudsman?
Yes there is. Unless a very good reason is provided, the Ombudsman will not consider a complaint to them which is made more than 12 months after the event to which the complaint is about or from the date of the decision from the local authority.
Will the Ombudsman take the side of the local authority/bailiff?
No, they cannot do so. This is because, the Ombudsman is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen and they make their decisions independently of all government departments, councils and politicians.
Can the Ombudsman refuse to consider a complaint?
The law (Local Government Act 1974) says there are some things the Ombudsman cannot investigate such as where someone has used a ‘right of appeal’ or a court has made a decision. The Ombudsman usually expects people to use any independent right of appeal such as; in the case of a penalty charge notice (PCN) to London Tribunals, or the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) who consider parking and moving traffic offence appeals. If the complaint concerns a PCN and where notices had gone to a previous address, a right of appeal exists through the Traffic Enforcement Centre.
Are Ombudsman’s decisions made public?
Yes they are. Since 2013 the LGO publishes decision statements on all complaints received. The information will not name the complainant. Decision statements are published 3 months after the date of the final decision and can be viewed under the Digest of Cases section of the LGO website. Viewing of previous Decision statements can be very helpful in deciding whether or not a complaint is suitable to take to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Can I appeal a Local Government Ombudsman decision?
An LGO decision is final and cannot be appealed. However, if there is a legal flaw, the decision can be challenged in the High Court.
Is a decision from the Ombudsman legally binding on the local authority?
Sadly not. The Ombudsman may only recommend how a complaint should be put right but in reality; almost all local authorities abide by the decision made by the LGO
How to contact the LGO:
The LGO Advice Team can be contacted on 0300 061 0614 and their website is here.
Commentary from Bailiff Advice:
If you are considering making a formal complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman and and wish to discuss whether or not this is the correct procedure, please feel free to contact us in confidence. You can email a question to us using our online Enquiry Form. Alternatively, you can contact us via our free helpline. Details are on our Contact page.