The Ombudsman can examine complaints about the actions of a range of public bodies, including local authorities.
County councils, for example, Galway County Council or South Dublin County Council
City councils, for example Dublin City Council or Cork City Council
The Ombudsman can examine complaints about how local authorities carry out their everyday executive and administrative activities. These include complaints about delays or failing to take action.
Before you complain to the Ombudsman you must try to resolve your problem with the local authority concerned. Many local authorities have internal complaints and appeals systems and you should ask to appeal your case. If you are not happy with the outcome, you can contact the Ombudsman.
Only elected members of a local authority may carry out reserved functions.
Examples of these functions include:
If you are not sure whether an action or a decision is an executive or reserved function, contact us and we can let you know.
However, in special circumstances the Ombudsman can set aside these rules.
Yes. The Ombudsman deals with all complaints independently and impartially when judging whether the action or decision of a local authority was fair and reasonable.
You can complain about any of the following:
These might include:
Most complaints to the Ombudsman about local authorities concern housing and planning, particularly the enforcement of planning decisions. (See Housing and Planning below).
Once we establish that we can examine your complaint, we will ask the local authority to send us a report. If necessary, the Ombudsman may also examine the files and records and may question people involved with the complaint. It can take time to gather the information that we need.
We will examine all the issues of maladministration. ‘Maladministration’ includes an action that was or might have been:
We will decide whether:
If we find that you have suffered due to maladministration, and if the local authority has not taken steps to remedy this, we may recommend it does so. In our recommendation, we may ask the local authority to:
If you are unhappy with the decision of a local authority to grant or refuse a planning permission, there are two options open to you.
1. You may appeal it to An Bord Pleanála, an independent statutory body outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction. Conditions and strict time limits apply.
2. You may seek a judicial review in the courts. Time limits also apply and you may wish to consult a legal adviser.
The Ombudsman can examine the general running of the planning process, as outlined below, but cannot examine planning decisions made by the local authority or An Bord Pleanála.
The Ombudsman can examine complaints about:
The Ombudsman can examine complaints about how the local authority deals with submissions and observations by those who want to object to or comment on a planning application. This includes examining whether the local authority informed objectors about the:
The Ombudsman can examine complaints about the maintenance of planning files, including:
The Ombudsman can examine how the local authority responded to a complaint to it from a member of the public about an unauthorised development. This includes examining:
Any decision or action taken by a local authority in relation to an unauthorised development which seeks to enforce planning law is known as enforcement.
Under the Planning & Development Act 2000 (the Act), local authorities have certain powers and obligations.
Local authorities must issue a ‘warning letter’ within six weeks of receiving a written complaint about an unauthorised development. However, this does not apply if it appears that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or without substance, or the development is minor.
Local authorities must:
The objective is that the local authority makes its decision within 12 weeks of issuing the warning letter.
If the local authority decides to issue an enforcement notice, it must then serve that notice and tell the person making that complaint that it has done so.
A local authority is not obliged by law to take action in every case. Under the Act, it can, having investigated a complaint, decide whether or not to take enforcement action in the case of a breach of planning legislation. If a complaint has been made to the Ombudsman about a decision by a local authority not to take enforcement action, the Ombudsman’s role is to assess whether the local authority acted reasonably.
If you need general information, technical advice or guidance on a planning matter, you should contact your local authority or seek your own independent advice. Information and forms on the planning process are available from local authorities.
The Ombudsman can examine complaints from people:
The Ombudsman can examine complaints from people who have applied for local authority housing loans or grants and consider that their applications have not been dealt with fairly. These loans and grants include:
The Ombudsman can examine complaints made by local authority tenants where the local authority:
The local authority assesses each application for housing under the Social Housing Assessment Regulations and if deemed eligible and there is a need for housing it will be approved for housing.
Each local authority has a Housing Allocation Scheme. Applicants get points under the various headings in the Housing Allocation Scheme.
If you complain to us about a failure or delay in giving you a house, we will examine whether:
You cannot use the Ombudsman as a way to ‘queue jump’ and we will not make representations to a local authority on your behalf.
Before you complain to the Ombudsman you must try to resolve your problem with the local authority concerned. Many local authorities have internal complaints and appeals systems and you should ask to appeal your case.
If you are not happy with the outcome, you can contact the Ombudsman. Complain to the Ombudsman as soon as possible. You should complain within 2 months of the local authority’s decision or action. Please remember to include any letters or other correspondence between you and the local authority.
The time taken to reach a decision will vary from case to case, depending on how complex it is. However, we will keep you informed of what is happening with your complaint.
Nothing - there is no charge for the services of the Ombudsman.
The Office of the Ombudsman,
18 Lower Leeson Street
Phone: LoCall 1890 22 30 30 or 01 – 639 5600
Yes, but only if you give them permission to do so. If you want to complain on behalf of someone else, you must get their permission first.
Follow the Ombudsman on Twitter @officeombudsmanDownload the print version (PDF)