Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 25 Oct 2021
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains about a Councillor’s objection to a planning application he had submitted and the Council’s response to anti-social behaviour he reported involving his neighbours. The planning application was withdrawn by Mr X before a decision was made, therefore there is no injustice to warrant an Ombudsman investigation. We do not find fault in the Council’s response to the anti-social behaviour issue, it has assessed all the evidence available to reach a decision, and we cannot question a decision properly made.
- Mr X complains;
- A Councillor unreasonably objected to a planning application he submitted for additional fencing at his property, and
- The Council has failed to adequately respond to anti-social behaviour (ASB) he has suffered from his neighbour.
What I have investigated
- I have investigated the Council’s response to the ASB complaints made by Mr X.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by 'maladministration' and 'service failure'. I have used the word 'fault' to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
- 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 read the complaint and the Council’s responses. I examined material provided by Mr X and the Council.
- I invited Mr X and the Council to comment on the draft decision and considered any comments made in response.
What I found
- Mr X contacted the Council about an allegation of ASB he said he and his family were suffering from a neighbouring property. Mr X said the ASB was racially motivated. The Council started an investigation working alongside the Police.
- In January 2020 the Council wrote to Mr X and said it had reviewed the CCTV evidence provided by Mr X along with the Police. It said the CCTV did not show clear evidence of Mr X’s neighbours spitting or throwing cigarettes onto his property, as had been alleged by Mr X. The Council said there was not sufficient evidence to be able to take any action and it was closing the complaint.
- In June 2020, the Council said Mr X contacted it again to report further issues of ASB he was suffering from his neighbours. In the same month, Mr X also wrote to two Councillors about the ASB issue.
- Later in June 2020, the Council re-opened its investigation and provided Mr X with diary sheets to record any incidents of ASB. It said it also made referrals to other agencies, such as the police and victim support, and wrote to other neighbours to check if there were any witnesses to the ASB.
- Mr X provided the Council with CCTV footage that he said evidenced noise coming from the neighbour’s property. He said the noise was like something being used to strike the wall or could be mechanical like a washing machine or boiler. Mr X said he would send the diary sheets to the Council.
- In July 2020 the Council wrote to Mr X and said it had been made aware of an incident by the Police where Mr X had made a report of a public order offence involving his neighbour. It said the Police had informed the Council the investigation had been closed due to a lack of supporting evidence.
- The Council also said it had reviewed the most recent CCTV provided by Mr X. It said it could hear the bang described by Mr X but the noise captured would not merit any further enforcement action from the Council. The Council offered to speak to Mr X’s neighbour to see if the noise could be identified and prevented from continuing.
- The Council wrote to Mr X again and said it had spoken to the neighbour about the banging noise. It said the neighbour also hears the noise at night, but says it is not coming from their property. The Council said it will leave the case open and will make further contact with Mr X to see if any further incidents have occurred.
- The Council said it considered placing noise recording equipment at the address, but it was unlikely to record anything different to the CCTV it had already been provided by Mr X. It also said it was not feasible to send an officer to the address to witness the noise due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Council said even if it had been feasible, the noise would have likely stopped by the time an officer arrived as it was usually not repetitive or at an exact time or day.
- In July 2020 Mr X complained to the Council that his family had received racial abuse from his neighbours which had been reported to the Police. He also said litter was being thrown into his garden.
- The Council asked Mr X if the litter shown in a photograph was the same picture shown to the Police in June 2020. It also asked if Mr X had observed the litter being thrown into his garden or had any CCTV evidence or time-stamped images.
- The Council also said that if the images of litter were those shown to the Police in June 2020, then it may be the case this has already been dealt with via the Police. The Council said it would need evidence to show the litter is not being blown over the fence and if any behaviour evidenced was deemed to be ASB, it would need proof it was Mr X’s neighbour to take action against them.
- The Council wrote to Mr X again to advise it had not received a response to its request for further evidence from him and if it did not receive a reply within seven days it would close the case. It said no further contact was received and the case was closed.
- Mr X complained to the Council that he was not satisfied with its response to the ASB he had reported.
- In March 2021 the Council provided Mr X with a Stage 1 response to his complaint. It said Mr X had raised concerns he was disadvantaged because he was from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic community and there was a lack of action on his case due to institutional racism. It said Mr X also said the council officers managing his case had been arrogant and ignorant.
- The Council did not uphold Mr X’s complaint and detailed the actions it had taken to investigate Mr X’s concerns around ASB. It advised Mr X he could request a stage 2 review of his complaint if he remained dissatisfied. The Council said Mr X has never requested a stage 2 review.
- Also in March 2021, the Council wrote to Mr X and said it had been made aware of a further incident of damage and ASB being investigated by the Police, and it would be reopening its ASB investigation because of that. It advised Mr X if he could provide 14 days of diary logs regarding current noise problems then it would be able to review if installing noise recording equipment would be applicable in this case. It also asked Mr X to send any recent recordings he had made with reference to the noise complaint.
- 14 days later, the Council wrote to Mr X advising it had not received any diary logs or recordings from him. It advised if it did not receive these within a further seven days then it would close the case with regards the noise complaint.
- The Council said no further response was received and the noise complaint aspect of the complaint was closed. It also advised it was awaiting an update from the Police regarding its investigation.
- In May 2021, the Council wrote to Mr X advising that it had received an update that the Police investigation was still ongoing and asked how things were with Mr X’s neighbour.
- Mr X responded that he was disappointed with the actions of the Council and the Police in that no action had yet been taken and the Police still had not interviewed his neighbours.
- The Council wrote back to Mr X and asked again if he could provide diary logs and any further CCTV or audio recordings relating to any incidents. The Council said Mr X has not provided it with any diary logs or further evidence.
- The Council said it would consider reopening the case if it is provided with evidence of the ASB or at the conclusion of the Police investigation, should it be necessary to do so.
- Mr X said he did not complete diary sheets as he did not feel they would add anything to his case.
- The Council has investigated each report of ASB from Mr X and considered any evidence provided. It has worked with other agencies such as the Police, to investigate this case. It has asked Mr X to complete diary logs and send them to the Council, but he has not done so.
- The Council has made its position clear that to take action it needs evidence to be provided to it by Mr X in the form of diary sheets and video or audio recordings. Mr X does not feel diary sheets would add to his case and has not provided these to the Council, although it has requested them on multiple occasions. The Council does not consider the evidence it has been provided by Mr X to warrant formal action being taken against Mr X’s neighbour. Mr X needs to meet the Council’s requests for evidence to progress the case.
- Mr X complained about the Councils actions and was invited to request a stage 2 response to his complaint if he was dissatisfied, but he did not make a request.
- I do not find fault in the actions of the Council in how it has investigated the allegations of ASB. It has reviewed evidence provided to it and requested further evidence from Mr X, which was not forthcoming. It has considered what information it has been provided with to make a decision in the correct way, and we cannot question a decision properly made.
- I close this case without a finding of fault against the Council. It has considered what evidence has been provided to it and followed the correct process to make a decision. We cannot question a decision properly made.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- I did not investigate Mr X’s complaint about a Councillor making an objection to his planning application.
- A Councillor is entitled to make an objection to a planning application if they choose to do so.
- Mr X withdrew his planning application prior to a decision being made by the Council.
- As no decision was ever made in the planning application, we do not know if the Councillor’s objection would have had an impact. This means no injustice has been caused to Mr X that would warrant an Ombudsman investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman