NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 17th, 2018.
A Council has been punished after mistakenly destroying a man’s prized BMW while he was in hospital.
An Ombudsman’s investigation has revealed how a man from Ewloe, known as Mr G, returned to his flat after a three-day stay in hospital where he had undergone ankle surgery.
On arrival he realised his BMW, which he was restoring and had been declared as being off the road, was missing from its designated parking bay.
After reporting it to the police, he was told that Flintshire Council had removed the car, which was wrongly classified as abandoned and destroyed.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Service, Mr G, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “It took about four seconds for me to notice as the car was parked about 20 feet from my front door.
“I checked with the neighbours and none of them had any idea what had happened, so obviously then I rang the police to say the vehicle had been stolen.
“The police were fantastic and had worked out it had been taken by the council and put me in direct contact with Streetscene.
“The officer admitted liability to me on the phone and said they shouldn’t have taken the car and that it had now been crushed.
“I’ve obviously then hit more than one roof, especially as I was restoring it.”
The council’s insurers refused to pay out and despite several complaints the local authority offered no further help to Mr G.
However, the Ombudsman said he could find no evidence that the council had attempted to search the DVLA’s database to identify the owner, or that it had issued a statutory notice to inform the landowner of its intentions.
Following the vehicle’s removal, Mr G was told by the council and the car dismantler that it had already been destroyed, but it was also discovered this did not take place until two weeks later.
The car contained tools and equipment worth hundreds of pounds and the authority has now been ordered to pay him £2,500 for the loss of his car and its contents, as well as £250 for the trouble caused.
Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said: “I was astounded by the sequence of events that led to the complainant having his car destroyed and clearly in this case the council has failed him.
“This is as classic a case of maladministration as I have witnessed in four years of office.
“It adds insult to injury for Mr G that the car contained tools he was using to restore his cherished BMW, and I am pleased the council will at least provide redress to cover the costs of this.”
Mr Bennett said the authority should ensure that appropriate records are created and kept relating to all future cases where vehicles are removed and disposed of.
Flintshire Council has agreed to review its procedures.
Steve Jones, chief officer for Streetscene and transportation, said: “Following the incident that took place in 2016, the council has accepted, and will act on, the findings and recommendations outlined in the Ombudsman’s report.
“Officers have conducted a full review of the processes for dealing with abandoned vehicles, and measures are now in place to prevent re-occurrence.”
Mr G added: “It should have just been a case of ‘We’re really sorry, here’s what we owe you’.
“Instead it’s taken two years of fighting and the Ombudsman investigating.
“I don’t know what it’s cost the public purse, but they could have solved this two years ago by admitting that what they’d done was wrong.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter.