People are suffering antisocial behaviour because councils are not thinking comprehensively about how they can tackle it, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) has said.
Local councils across England have a broad range of tools available to them to tackle ASB, but all too often the Ombudsman has found they are either not using them – or do not fully understand the powers they have.
The Ombudsman’s report reveals it has upheld nearly three-quarters (74%) of the cases it has investigated in the past year. Cases range from low-level issues such as dog fouling and inconsiderate parking to more serious sustained harassment and intimidation.
The issues identified in the report include delays responding to residents’ calls for help or acting on evidence presented to them, failing to bring in other agencies such as the police – or believing such matters are purely for the police.
The Ombudsman has even found councils gatekeeping access to their services by telling people they will not act unless fixed conditions are met, potentially leaving people to suffer unduly. In one case, a man reported a disturbance from the loud music of a neighbour’s 13-hour party and the council told him it would only look into matters once he recorded six incidents within 25 days.
Another issue raised is councils’ awareness and use of the ASB Case Review process – often known as the Community Trigger. This can be requested by people suffering ASB and requires the council and other agencies, including the police, to jointly review what has been done, and what should be done, to alleviate the ASB, if the case meets the threshold for consideration.
The report highlights several key case studies the LGSCO has investigated, complete with learning points for councils on how they can improve their services.
Paul Najsarek, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“Antisocial behaviour can blight our communities and have a significant impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. But all too often in our investigations we find councils not thinking hard enough about how they can step in to help.
“Councils in partnership with other agencies, when using their powers to the full, can have a profound effect on people’s quality of life – both in terms of taking action against perpetrators and providing support to victims.
“I urge leaders to read this report and reflect on their services to ensure they fully understand the range of powers at their disposal and provide the best possible support to the people they serve.”
The Ombudsman’s report also includes good practice notes for council officers, and questions that members of councils’ scrutiny committees can use to look at their own authorities’ performance.