London Borough of Camden (22 011 889)

Category : Environment and regulation > Other

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 17 Sep 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complained about insufficient action taken by the Council regarding concerns he raised about anti-social behaviour near his property. We have concluded our investigation having made a finding of fault. Whilst I acknowledge the Council considered Mr X’s case and took steps to resolve his concerns, the Council failed to keep Mr X sufficiently updated nor did it provide him with information about the Community Trigger Process. The Council have agreed to our recommendations.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains about how the Council has responded to his reports of antisocial behaviour near his property. Mr X says the Council has failed to take sufficient action to resolve the matter despite numerous complaints and solutions proposed to the Council. As a result, Mr X says he does not feel safe or comfortable in and around his home which has caused him significant distress. Mr X would like the Council to take action to prevent the anti-social behaviour.

Back to top

The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
  2. We consider whether there was fault in the way an organisation made its decision. If there was no fault in the decision making, we cannot question the outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  3. If we are satisfied with an organisation’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)

Back to top

How I considered this complaint

  1. I liaised with Mr X and considered the information he provided. I also raised enquiries with the Council and considered the information it provided in response. I invited Mr X and the Council to comment on my draft decision and considered any comments that were submitted.

Back to top

What I found

Relevant law and guidance

Anti-social behaviour

  1. Councils have a duty to take action to tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB). The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) defines 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.
  2. ASB can take many different forms and councils should make informed and proportionate decisions about which of their powers is most appropriate to use in any situation. For example they may deal with noise as an environmental health issue, or where the alleged perpetrator is a council tenant, they may take action as part of their duties as a social landlord.
  3. The 2014 Act introduced new powers for councils, the police and other bodies to tackle ASB. The statutory guidance which accompanies the Act sets out some early and informal interventions which may be used to address anti-social behaviour. These include verbal and written warnings, mediation and acceptable behaviour agreements.
  4. Acceptable behaviour agreements are voluntary agreements used when someone has engaged in ASB, understands and accepts they did something wrong and wants support to change their behaviour.
  5. Councils and the police also have powers to issue community protection notices to prevent anti-social behaviour which is having a negative effect on the community's quality of life, and which they decide is unreasonable.
  6. In terms of assessing the impact of ASB on victims, the statutory guidance says it is good practice for agencies to assess the risk of harm to the victim, and their potential vulnerability, when they receive a complaint about anti-social behaviour.
  7. The 2014 Act also provides a mechanism to review the way complaints about ASB have been investigated when someone believes an ongoing problem has not been addressed. This ASB case review is also known as the ‘Community Trigger’ process. When someone requests a case review, relevant bodies (which include the council, police and other agencies) must decide whether the local threshold for a case review has been met.
  8. If the threshold is met, the relevant bodies should undertake the review. They should share information, consider what action has already been taken, decide whether more should be done, and then inform the complainant of the outcome. If they decide to take further action, they should create an action plan.

The Council’s policy

  1. The Council says that if antisocial behaviour is causing alarm or distress to residents or the community, it should report this to the Camden Community Safety Team.
  2. The Council says that a report may be discussed at a community safety briefing where an appropriate resource will be allocated and that those who submit a report will receive an email with details of the action taken and a reference number. The Council says, when considering reports of anti-social behaviour, it will take into consideration factors such as:
    • How serious the complaint is
    • How often the problem has occurred
    • Whether there has been other complaints about the anti-social behaviour
  3. The Council also says it may consult with partners such as the Police, Housing, Adult Social Care or the Youth Offending Service and that it will keep in regular contact with those who submit reports and keep them informed of what they are doing to resolve the problem.

Good administrative practice

  1. The Ombudsman has issued guidance on good administration called “Principles of good administrative practice”. The guidance says we expect councils to be open and accountable.

Back to top

What happened

  1. I have included a summary of some of the key events in this complaint. This is not intended to be a comprehensive account of everything that took place.
  2. Mr X first contacted the Council to raise a complaint in August 2022. Mr X says the Council withdrew his complaint citing that it believed it could resolve his concerns informally. Between August 2022 and September 2022, Mr X contacted the Council three more times to little avail. In September 2022, the Council informed Mr X that it had chased the relevant services for an update.
  3. At the beginning of October 2022, Mr X contacted the Council to raise another complaint. Mr X says the Council withdrew this complaint again citing that it believed it could resolve his concerns informally.
  4. Mr X, during this period, contacted individual members of the Council’s staff directly, and also raised his concerns with ward councillors and his MP.
  5. Mr X contacted the Community Safety Team in the middle of October 2022, and four more times in October 2022.
  • Toward the end of October 2022, the Council referred the matter to a range of services:
    • The Council spoke with its street cleaning services to discuss the removal of litter, paraphernalia and hosing down the urinated areas. The service confirmed it was aware of Mr X’s concerns and had been attending to the matter.
    • The Council also spoke with its CCTV and Lighting Service, who confirmed it did not have plans to install additional cameras on the road. The service did confirm that parts of the road was captured by CCTV and that it considered the area to be very well lit. The service confirmed it would highlight any anti-social behaviour or criminal activity to the police.
    • The Council also spoke with a range of patrol services, including the Hotspot Team, Community Presence Officers, and Safer Neighbourhood Team, to ask for extra attention to the area.
  1. At the end of October 2022, Mr X says he was issued a complaint reference for a third complaint and informed that the Council would investigate what had happened with his first two complaints.
  2. At the end of October 2022, the Council wrote to a ward councillor, responding to Mr X’s concerns, providing an update with the actions and conversations it had held with the other relevant services.
  3. In November 2022, Mr X attempted to contact the Council again for an update. Toward the end of November 2022. The Council contacted Mr X to inform him that it had attended to his concerns but would again contact patrolling services to highlight the area.
  4. Mr X’s complaint was allocated in December 2022. Following this, the Council contacted the other relevant services for a further update and to inform them that Mr X’s concerns still continued.
  5. Some days later, Mr X contacted the Council again to express his unhappiness with a lack of action. The Council informed Mr X that it had raised his concerns with the relevant services and would review the situation regularly. The Council apologised to Mr X that he ‘felt’ nobody had contacted him.
  6. Toward the end of December 2022, the Council responded to Mr X’s complaint. It is not clear whether this was a stage 1 complaint response. The Council provided Mr X with details of the action it had taken to date, and informed Mr X of a Community Safety led walkabout taking place in January 2023.
  7. In January 2023, the Community Safety led walkabout took place. This was attended by two ward councillors, Police Safer Neighbourhood Team, Environmental Services and Mr X and other residents. Following the walkabout, the Council said it would circulate an action plan detailing what action it would take to address residents’ concerns.
  8. In mid-January 2023, the Council provided a complaint response to Mr X, the Council apologised for the delays in Mr X pursuing his complaint, and apologised for withdrawing his second complaint. The Council summarised the action it had taken to tackle Mr X’s concerns about anti-social behaviour near his property and awarded him £100 for time and trouble incurred during the handling of his complaints.
  9. Unhappy with the Council’s response, Mr X escalated his compliant to stage 2. In February 2023, the Council responded, not upholding Mr X’s complaint. The Council again apologised to Mr X for the handling of his complaint, but reiterated the action it had taken to address his concerns about anti-social behaviour.
  10. In May 2023, the Council circulated its action plan. The Council says it continues to review the matter, but that action has been taken to mitigate against it.

Back to top


Resolving Mr X’s concerns about anti-social behaviour

  1. When alleged ASB is reported, we expect councils to decide whether (if proved) the behaviour would amount to ASB. If it would, they should consider the risks to the victim and determine what priority to give the complaint. Councils should then investigate and decide whether to act. Councils are entitled to decide to take no action even if they consider there has been ASB.
  2. It should be noted that any deviation from the process is not necessarily fault; officers should handle each case according to its merits. As per paragraph 11, it is good practice for Councils to assess the risk of harm to the victim, and their potential vulnerability, when they receive a complaint about anti-social behaviour. I cannot see that the Council did this when it reviewed Mr X’s complaints and reports about anti-social behaviour.
  3. In any event, Mr X was unhappy with the action taken by the Council, but it is not our role to decide whether the Council should have acted differently in response to Mr X’s reports and complaints. From the evidence available to me, I am satisfied the Council investigated Mr X’s concerns and took action it considered was sufficient to resolve and mitigate the issues. This is summarised below:
    • The Council’s services continue to give additional attention to the area, including regular washdowns on top of any daily routines
    • Following a light assessment, the lighting on road was upgraded and completed at the end of March 2023.
    • Discussions are ongoing about the introduction of more public toilets.
    • The area continues to be targeted with additional patrolling; and
    • Its licencing service have addressed concerns with the relevant venues that residents believe are responsible for the anti-social behaviour.
  4. Therefore, whilst I acknowledge the Council did not assess the risk of harm to Mr X, nor his vulnerability when considering his reports, I remain satisfied the Council have taken action that it considered proportionate to resolve matters.

Community Trigger

  1. I found the Council, when looking into Mr X’s case, failed to advise or signpost him to the information about the Community Trigger process. In its response to our enquiries, I have not seen any evidence that this happened.
  2. The Community Trigger process was introduced to provide a mechanism to challenge Councils’ responses to the ASB reporting. Councils must provide relevant information in individual cases and on its website, otherwise residents may not be aware of their right to ask for a review.
  3. The Council’s failure to advise Mr X on the Community Trigger process is fault. This caused Mr X injustice as he could not exercise his right to ask for a review. He spent much time contacting the Council and seeking support from his MP and ward councillor, which might have not been necessary if he had known of the possibility to ask for a ASB case review.
  4. As explained in our guide mentioned under paragraph 17 of this decision, being open and accountable is one of the principles of good administrative practice. The information and advice provided by Councils to the residents should be clear, accurate and complete.
  5. Although the Council has information on its website about the Community Trigger process, there is no reference to this process in its online support for anti-social behaviour. Therefore, unless somebody already knows the process exists and how it is called, they would not find the relevant information when reviewing the Council’s information on how to deal with the anti-social behaviour and would not know they have the right to challenge the Council’s response. This is fault, which meant Mr X could not easily find the information about the Community Trigger process published on the Council’s website.

Complaint handling and communication with Mr X

  1. From August 2022, Mr X contacted the Council on several occasions to report, what he considered, was antisocial behaviour near his property. The Council withdrew two of Mr X’s complaints and did not provide a substantive update regarding the action it was taking until November 2022, over two months later.
  2. The Council says it assumed the information would be passed on to Mr X from the ward councillor but acknowledges this did not happen.
  3. I have further concerns with the Council’s failure to respond to Mr X on many of the occasions he made reports via the Council’s community safety team. I would expect the Council to have responded to Mr X’s communications and reassured him that action was being taken, as per its policy. Failure to keep Mr X up to date is fault and has likely contributed to him feeling that the Council has not taken his concerns seriously.
  4. The Council has acknowledged that it withdrew Mr X’s complaint incorrectly and made a remedy payment to Mr X of £100 for its administrative failings. However, I find that there is scope for a further remedy to acknowledge the further injustice highlighted here.

Back to top

Agreed action

  1. To prevent similar occurrences, and remedy the injustice incurred in this complaint, the Council have agreed to:
      1. Pay Mr X an additional amount of £150, to acknowledge the injustice caused by failing to regularly update him and inform him about the Community Trigger process.
      2. Provide Mr X with the information on the Council’s Community Trigger process.
      3. The Council will consider the appropriateness of whether to provide information about the Community Trigger process on its online support for anti-social behaviour. The Council will provide the Ombudsman with an outcome of its review and its reasons for any decision it makes.
  2. The Council have agreed to complete action points a and b within one month of the Ombudsman’s final decision and action c within two months of the Ombudsman’s final decision.

Back to top

Final decision

  1. I have concluded my investigation having made a finding of fault. Whilst I acknowledge the Council considered Mr X’s case and took steps to resolve his concerns, the Council failed to keep Mr X sufficiently updated nor did it provide him with information about the Community Trigger Process. The Council have agreed to my recommendations.

Back to top

Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

Print this page

LGO logogram

Review your privacy settings

Required cookies

These cookies enable the website to function properly. You can only disable these by changing your browser preferences, but this will affect how the website performs.

View required cookies

Analytical cookies

Google Analytics cookies help us improve the performance of the website by understanding how visitors use the site.
We recommend you set these 'ON'.

View analytical cookies

In using Google Analytics, we do not collect or store personal information that could identify you (for example your name or address). We do not allow Google to use or share our analytics data. Google has developed a tool to help you opt out of Google Analytics cookies.

Privacy settings