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I'm posting the final decision made by the LGO (York office) to my appeal to their first decision regarding my complaint about North East Lincolnshire Council and their bailiffs Rossendales. What follows is the complete contents of the reply, with my comments in red, I hope for it to demonstrate how unlikely it is that one may get a satisfactory outcome from these jokes and maybe there is some other route to take which involves less pointless bangging of one's head against that brick wall.

 

 

If telephoning contact: Mrs K Sykes's Personal Assistant on 01904xxxxx

If e-mailing: j.burns@lgo org uk

 

Dear Mr. Outlaw the lgo,

 

As you are dissatisfied with the decision on your complaint the Ombudsman, Mrs Seex, has asked me to review the file on her behalf. I am a manager in a different team, do not manage Mr Lewis and have had no previous involvement in your complaint. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. For administrative reasons I am responding, rather than Ms Fleming. Just to keep everything as confusing as we can, lets have as many many different contacts as possible shall we. Mrs. Seex, Mrs. K. Sykes, J. Burns and Ms. Fleming.

 

I am sorry to disappoint you further, as I appreciate how strongly you feel, but I support Mr Lewis' decision to close your complaint. Let me explain why.

Your complaint concerns the way that your Council Tax debt was collected by the Council and bailiffs acting on their behalf.

 

Mr Lewis' decision was that your complaint was outside the Ombudsman's jurisdiction because you had a right of appeal to the Magistrate's Court. Under the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 you can appeal if you consider that a bailiff has acted illegally or irregularly. In your letter of 9 April 2010 you say that you did appeal to the Magistrate's Court, but your appeal was rejected because it was out of time. I was out of time because I fell for the councils formal complaints procedure taking up months thus playing into their slimy hands. I agree with Mr Lewis that those elements of your complaint relating to whether the bailiff acted illegally or irregularly, remain outside the Ombudsman's jurisdiction, despite the fact that your appeal to the Magistrate's Court is out of time.

In addition, any allegations of fraud by the bailiffs are for the police to deal with, not the Local Government Ombudsman. And what do you suppose the police thought about taking any action?

 

 

However, there are elements of your complaint which are not covered by the right of appeal to the Magistrate's Court. I will now consider whether these are matters the Ombudsman should investigate.

 

The powers of the Local Government Ombudsman are laid out in the Local Government Act 1974. This Act enables the Ombudsman to investigate complaints of maladministration. Maladministration refers to mistakes or errors in the processes and procedures followed by the Council. If there is evidence of maladministration, the Ombudsman must consider whether this has caused any significant injustice to the person making the complaint. Injustice means has the person has suffered in some way because of the errors or mistakes of the Council. If both maladministration and injustice are found, the Ombudsman can recommend a remedy to the Council to put the person complaining back in the position they would have been in, but for the maladministration.

 

The Council's refusal to accept payment once the debt had passed to the bailiffs

 

This is not a matter the Ombudsman will consider because you have not been caused any injustice. The Council has a policy that once an account is sent to the bailiffs, all contact about the account should be with the bailiff. It's not good enough to say the council "has a policy" there are rules and regulations they should follow, not just make them up as it suits them. It explained that this was to prevent confusion. However irrespective of the Council's policy, you made the payment of £57 to the Council by internet to clear the council tax you owed and it was accepted. This was therefore no injustice to you. They are not taking into account the stress time etc involved with dealing with these situations. Further more it was only because I took the initiative to pay direct into the councils account that this matter was resolved, the council were being completely obstructive, refusing repeatedly to accept payment.

 

The Council passed its responsibility to the bailiffs to respond to your first two formal complaints

 

The decision to ask the bailiffs to respond to your initial complaints was in line with the Council's policies. There is no evidence of maladministration. Are these policies just made up by the council? The reason councils use private bailiffs is so that they can blame them in these situations, but unfortunately for the councils, they have overall responsibility.

 

The Council stated that it is not reasonable to expect that their bailiffs prove visits to and correspondence left at your property for which they charged fees

 

This is not an issue the Ombudsman will pursue. You live in an apartment block and access is through a security door and there is no communal post box. Oh so the council and their bailiffs incompetence is my fault because of where I live is it? You say you did not receive letters left by the bailiffs on two occasions they say they visited. There is no realistic way of proving that the letters were or were not left and I would not expect the bailiffs to take other actions to prove visits took place. In the circumstances the Council's stance seems reasonable and the Ombudsman would not achieve anything further by investigating this issue. You didn't really have an answer for that did you lgo, but you are expert at making it sound like you do.

 

Illegal levy on vehicle

 

Your email of 8 June 2010 included the text of an article by the Ombudsman which covered complaints similar to your own. In three of these cases levy and van fees were charged for a levy on a car not owned by the debtor. The article says that in these cases the Ombudsman recommended the levy and van fees should be refunded and the council should ensure that bailiffs check ownership of vehicles with DVLA. The text sent to the LGO which is refered to in this paragraph is that posted on this site about the ombudsmans action taken on illegal levies.

 

In your case the Council upheld your complaints that the bailiff did not leave a Levy of distress when the levy was completed and did not take reasonable steps to ascertain ownership of the vehicle before the levy took place. However neither of these faults has caused you significant injustice. This is because you have never paid any of the fees associated with the levy of the vehicle and this is the remedy the Ombudsman would normally seek, as outlined above. So you're saying we have to live on our wits where the council and their bailiffs are involved, and your saying it's all right for them to try it on. The fact that I didn't pay the **** their fees means that they didn't try levying illegally does it? I will contact the Council to emphasise that it should ensure bailiffs check ownership of vehicles.

 

Conclusion

 

I am sorry that you have not achieved what you hoped for when you complained to the Ombudsman. Having considered all the material on the file, I support the decision to discontinue the investigation. The file on this complaint is now closed and I regret that we cannot correspond with you any further on this matter. This does not affect your ability to make a fresh complaint on a new issue in the future.

 

In your emails you say that you want to make a complaint about the Local Government Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is independent and our decisions are not subject to review by any other body. If you remain dissatisfied, our decisions can be challenged in the High Court on a point of law (this is known as a 'judicial review'). The time limit for making an application for judicial review is very strict. It must be made promptly and in any event within three months after the grounds to make the claim first arose.

 

The Court will expect you to comply with the 'pre-action protocol', details of which can be found at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/cms/43·19.htm. You may wish to take advice, for example from a solicitor, Citizens Advice Bureau or law centre before pursuing legal action.

 

Yours sincerely

Mrs K Sykes

 

Assistant Ombudsman

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