Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 22 Nov 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr B says the Council failed to act when he reported antisocial behaviour from one of his neighbours and wrongly closed the community trigger. The Ombudsman does not intend to find fault with the Council for how it considered the reports of anti-social behaviour. This is because the Council suitably considered the information under the community trigger.
- Mr B complains the Council did not properly consider his reports of antisocial behaviour and failed to open a community trigger.
- Mr B complains the Councils failure to act has meant he and his family have endured constant antisocial behaviour which has impacted their lives and their wellbeing.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy.
- The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. He must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended and 34(3))
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Mr B’s complaint and information he provided. I also considered information provided by the Council. I invited Mr B and the Council to comment on my draft decision and considered the comments made before issuing my final decision.
What I found
Anti-social behaviour legislation
- Section 2 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 de-fines anti-social behaviour as conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause:
- harassment, alarm or distress to any person;
- conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person's occupation of residential premises; or
- conduct capable of causing housing related nuisance or annoyance to any person.
- Mr B and his family live in a cul-de-sac of properties. Mr B says that since he moved into the property, he and his family have been subject to anti-social behaviour from his neighbour.
- Mr B reported the continuing incidents with his neighbour to the Council and to the Police. Mr B also kept record of issues between his neighbour and other residents of the street.
- Mr B raised anti-social behaviour logs with the Council on several occasions. Mr B said he was seeking to get an injunction on his neighbour for the behaviour.
- The Council considered the incidents Mr B was raising. The Council at first said the incidents Mr B raised did not meet the threshold for a community trigger.
- Mr B told the Council it had wrongly considered the legislation for antisocial behaviour, and that a threshold could not be applied, only whether three or more reports had been made.
- The Council opened a community trigger about Mr B’s allegations of anti-social behaviour. The trigger considered information from the Police, Council legal team, anti-social behaviour team, Noise pollution team and dangerous dogs team.
- The trigger determined the best course of action would be to offer Mr B and his neighbour mediation, as the Police had already pursued a community resolution order. The Council said the reports of anti-social behaviour did not amount to enough evidence for an injunction.
- The community trigger was then closed by the Council. Mr B was unhappy with this outcome and complained to the Council.
- As part of the complaints process, the Council reviewed the community trigger and the outcomes. It found the outcomes were inline with the reports of anti-social behaviour submitted by Mr B. It advised that mediation would still be an option for Mr B and his neighbour and advised that Mr B could consider his own legal action against his neighbour.
Opening a community trigger
- I have reviewed all the reports of anti-social behaviour Mr B submitted to the Council. I have also reviewed the Council’s considerations of the information Mr B provided and the advice sought from other agencies and departments.
- Mr B submitted multiple reports of anti-social behaviour. Mr B also provided the Council with diary entries and cctv records.
- At first the Council said his reports did not meet the threshold for a community trigger. Mr B pointed out that the legislation for a community trigger does not rely on a threshold, but only that three or more reports have been made.
- The Council considered Mr B’s point and decided to open a community trigger. I have considered the internal communication about the legislation and the actions set out in the Council’s final response where it says Mr B’s reports did meet the criteria for the trigger.
- By refusing to initially consider Mr B’s anti-social behaviour complaints, the Council delayed opening the community trigger.
- The Council said in light of Mr B’s complaint, it has completed a review of the community trigger approach and staff will be provided with further training and guidance for the community trigger approach. I am of the view this is the appropriate remedy to ensure Council staff open community triggers at the right stage.
- The Council accepted that there had been a delay in handling Mr B’s reports of anti-social behaviour and apologised to Mr B for this. It also offered Mr B a financial payment of £250 in recognition of the distress this caused him. I find this to be the appropriate remedy for the delay.
Community Trigger decision
- Mr B’s reports of anti-social behaviour were considered under an open community trigger. I have reviewed all the correspondence with third party agencies and other Council departments.
- As part of his reports, Mr B submitted lengthy diary records for his neighbour’s behaviour. The Council looked at each report and assessed whether it amounted to antisocial behaviour. The Council also considered the photos of CCTV Mr B provided.
- The parts that were identified as potentially being antisocial behaviour the Council sought further advice from other departments and third-party agencies.
- Mr B complains the Council did not speak to other neighbours or conduct the street survey like it said it would. I have seen all of the Council’s consideration of the information. The Council has said after reviewing the information it became evident there was enough evidence to make a decision, and the behaviour would not be enough for the Council to pursue an injunction.
- The Council decided that as it could not pursue an injunction, the only action that could be offered was mediation. The Council proposed mediation between Mr B and his neighbour. The Council was also aware the Police were pursuing a community resolution order with Mr B’s neighbour. The Council also advised that incidents of loud noise need to be reported to through the noise nuisance procedure.
- The Ombudsman cannot overturn Council decisions where the decision by the Council was properly reached. The Council records clearly show that reports of anti-social behaviour raised by Mr B was considered under the community trigger, and the matter was discussed with multiple agencies.
- I therefore cannot question the Council’s decision to close the community trigger and offer Mr B mediation. This is because the Council has considered all the appropriate information when making this decision.
- I have now completed my investigation. I find no fault with the Council for how it considered Mr B’s reports of anti-social behaviour and for how it reached the decision to close the community trigger.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman