13 September, 2007
Local Authorities and Housing Associations should be aware of the findings of the Ombudsman in relation to a complaint made by a resident over Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of incidents of anti-social behaviour.
The complainants made their complaint over the manner in which the Council handled reports of anti-social behaviour by two households in their street. The members of the households complained of were related and they, along with the complainants, were all tenants of the Council.
The investigation revealed that since May 2004 the complainants had reported the two households for a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour to the Council. The ombudsman found no fault with the Council in relation to these issues.
In July 2006, one of the neighbours damages the complainant's garden wall, gate and car. The individual concerned pleaded guilty to an offence of causing criminal damage shortly thereafter. The Council issued this individual with a warning letter when the incident occurred. However, the ombudsman found that the Council had not liaised with the police or take any further action when the individual concerned was convicted.
The Council seemed to believe that it did not know about the conviction until some seven months later, which was not the case.
The ombudsman found that the Council's inactivity was contrary to government guidance and its own policies and procedures. The ombudsman also considered that the Council's failure to act had caused the complainants distress and anxiety and had given the impression that the Council was not serious about tackling issues of anti-social behaviour.
The ombudsman made an overall finding of maladministration causing injustice and made a recommendation that the Council should pay the complainants £750.00, arrange a meeting with the complainants to discuss the best means of going forward including a clear explanation of what the Council can and cannot do in terms of dealing with anti-social behaviour.
This finding stresses the importance for Local Authorities and Housing Associations knowing their own policies when it comes to dealing with anti-social behaviour and addressing relevant complaints expeditiously.