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Backlog of noise complaints uncovered during Ombudsman investigation

An Ombudsman investigation into a woman’s noise complaint has revealed a backlog of hundreds of complaints at Calderdale council.

The woman complained to the council during the COVID-19 pandemic about noise nuisance and waste build-up on a neighbouring property. She said she and her partner had suffered unbearable noise and vibrations from the loud music, and  waste was attracting vermin.

The woman sent in noise logs to Calderdale Metropolitan District Council and repeatedly asked for updates about these and the garden situation.

However, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council did not do enough to investigate her concerns, and did not keep her up to date with progress.

The council admitted to the Ombudsman that during the pandemic it had received a large increase in complaints, while at the same time teams were affected by shielding and self-isolation. It had also been in the process of changing the way its teams investigated complaints. During the investigation, the council told the Ombudsman it had a backlog of 200 other noise complaints yet to be investigated.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“While I understand the unprecedented pressures councils were under during the height of the COVID-19 situation last year, they still had a duty to pay heed to the principles of good administrative practice, and communicate appropriately with the woman about her concerns.

“The council’s service was beset with a number of issues, including  failing to log some of her complaints, and when it did look at her concerns, its investigations were delayed.

“I am pleased the council has accepted my recommendations and has already shared the learning from our investigation within the council.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s role is to remedy injustice and share learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise to the woman and pay her £100 for her time and trouble and a further £500 for the distress and uncertainty caused. It will now investigate her concerns about a build up of waste at a neighbouring property.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council will write to all those with live noise complaints, apologise for the delay and ask them to contact the council if they are still experiencing the noise complained about.

It will also develop an action plan to make sure it investigates any ongoing noise complaints as soon as possible.

Article date: 07 October 2021