New action plan after Ombudsman ruling on hundreds of noise complaints to Calderdale Council

A new action plan has been set up to tackle noise complaints in Calderdale after the Council was found to be at fault by the Ombudsman after one had not been resolved in nearly a year.

Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 11:33 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 11:36 am
Hundreds of complaints were made to Calderdale Council

A report to scrutiny councillors showed Calderdale Council had around 200 noise complaints to investigate when Miss X complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in January this year after first logging her complaint in May 2020.

Drawing up and setting in motion the plan was one of the conditions imposed on the council by the Ombudsman, who ruled it had been at fault.

Place Scrutiny Board Chair, Coun Peter Caffrey (Con, Northowram and Shelf), said the discussion councillors were now having was about ensuring the process was right for the future rather than the inquiry itself.

Members had been told the Ombudsman, while appreciating the COVID-19 pandemic placed a lot of pressure on council resources, said it had statutory duties to carry out and the significant delay here meant the authority was at fault.

As well as a number of remedies the council must make regarding Miss X, including investigating a another complaint she had made regarding garden waste, the council should also write to all of those who had noise complaints still “live” with the council to see if they were still experiencing problems and devise an action plan to ensure it investigates any noise complaints as soon as possible, said the Ombudsman.

The plan outlines a new system for dealing with complaints, which councillors heard was on track.

Coun Paul Bellenger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said the new system flagged up to colleagues whether or not action had been taken within time periods and should ensure complaints were not missed.

Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) asked about the number of noise complaints still open at the present time.

Sarah Barker, the council’s Principal Partnership Enforcement Office, who presented the report, said there were 272 – the council was waiting on information on some of these, in other cases there were a lot of complaints about one job, and some were kept open in case problems arose again.

Coun Audrey Smith (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said: “When people complain, it is a last resort and we have to take that seriously – when people get on the phone they are at the end of their tether.”

Councillors heard there was often a thin line between anti-social behaviour and statutory noise nuisance which had a very high threshold.

Working with partners like West Yorkshire Police, the council sought to deal with these as anti-social behaviour cases based on loss of amenity rather than the statutory level which has health implications – looking at the harm rather than the threshold, providing a streamlined response, councillors heard.

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