In 2017, Mr D (anonymised) complained to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales that he had received a Council Tax Notice from Wrexham County Borough Council which contained errors in the Welsh version for the third consecutive year. He said that he had given the council the opportunity to resolve the matter in 2014 and every year since.
The council gave the Ombudsman an undertaking to correct the matter in time for the 2018/19 financial year, but Mr D has once again received a Council Tax Notice with the same errors in it.
The Ombudsman has taken the exceptional step of issuing a special report[ii] on the matter, as the council has not carried out the actions it agreed with the Ombudsman. It is only the second time the current Ombudsman, Nick Bennett, has done so, since being appointed in 2014.
The Welsh Language Commissioner had already found against the council[ii] after her investigation into the Council’s failure to comply with Welsh Language Standards in its Council Tax demands in 2017. It is her role to ensure the council is compliant with such standards while it is the Ombudsman’s role to deal with complaints of maladministration.
Commenting on the report, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett, said:
“I am extremely disappointed that Wrexham council has failed to correct these mistakes and carry out the necessary actions it said it would. This shows a lack of respect to the Welsh language and to members of the public that it serves.
“The council has given the impression to Mr D that his complaint was a trivial matter and I am concerned that the sole purpose of its original agreement with me was to avoid an investigation.
“This is only the second time I have had to issue a special report against a public body in Wales but it is essential the council is held to account for its actions and I will be monitoring the situation to ensure compliance.”
The council has now agreed to a number of further recommendations made by the Ombudsman. These include sending a written apology to Mr D, £100 compensation for the injustice caused to him, to create a formal and written process regarding the annual notice and to ensure all relevant documentation are sent to its external translating partners for review.
Notes to Editor
[ii] Under the provisions of the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005, pursuant to section 3, the Ombudsman is able to take any action he considers appropriate to resolve a complaint as an alternative to investigating it. This can include agreeing with a relevant body that it will take certain actions within a stipulated time. Where the Ombudsman is not satisfied that the relevant body has carried out the actions it explicitly agreed to undertake within the time specified he may issue a special report under s22 (6) of the Act.
[ii] Report on the investigation by the Welsh Language Commissioner, (number CSG233) 31 January 2018