Harrogate Borough Council reported to ombudsman 12 times over last year

Harrogate Borough Council was been reported to the Local Government Ombudsman 12 times over the last year.
Harrogate Borough Council was been reported to the Local Government Ombudsman 12 times over the last year.

New figures have revealed that 12 complaints were made to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) about Harrogate Borough Council over the last 12 months.

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The complaints ranged from issues with planning applications to councillor conduct.

Of the 12 complaints made between March 31 2017 and March 31 2018 just one was sent for detailed investigation.

That complaint was upheld meaning the ombudsman found fault with the council. This means that the council’s upheld rate rose to 100 per cent from 20 per cent in 2017.

However, in 2016/17 one complaint was upheld against Harrogate Council with four not upheld, meaning that while a greater ratio of complaints was upheld just one actual fault with the council was found again.

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The number of complaints also dropped from 26 in 2016/17.

In October 2017 the LGO upheld a complaint against the authority after it told a member of the public to apply for a certificate of lawful development despite knowing it would fail.

The ombudsman wrote: “Mr B asked the council for advice about whether it would be appropriate for his group to apply for a change of use of a building which was no longer used as a social club.

“The council told Mr B he could apply for a change of use or a certificate of lawfulness as the use of the hall had existed for longer than four years. Mr B relied on that advice and put in an application for a certificate of lawfulness.

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“However, for the council to issue a certificate of lawfulness Mr B would have needed to show the hall had been used for its current use for more than 10 years.

“As that was not the case the certificate of lawfulness was bound to fail.

“Mr B sought a refund of the £385 he had paid based on incomplete advice.

“The council refused to make the payment.

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“The council has now agreed to make that payment. There is, therefore, no need for the Ombudsman to pursue the complaint further.”

One of the complaints not investigated was over a councillor not declaring that she was the owner of a piece of land that went before the planning committee in 2016. The application was instead in the name of her son-in-law, a mistake blamed on the planning agent.

The ombudsman ruled that the complainant, known as Mr B, had missed the 12 month cut off to refer the matter to the LGO, saying there was no doubt he knew of the issue when it happened.

The LGO also ruled that no damage had been done to Mr B, noting: “Even if this time restriction did not apply, I do not see that Mr B has suffered a significant personal injustice as a result of the alleged fault in the council’s subsequent decision not to investigate the matter further.

“This is because the planning application form included a statement that the applicant was related to a councillor, so the application was determined by the planning committee anyway.

“Therefore, the use of the incorrect ownership details did not enable the proper determination route to be circumvented, and I have seen no evidence that the actual decision on the application was influenced by the ownership details contained on the application form.”

A spokesman for Harrogate Borough Council said: “We are pleased that the number of complaints has fallen and we will continue to work very hard to resolve matters when a resident or customer is unhappy with us.”