The Lincolnite
10 days ago

Post-pandemic Lincoln: A community with less patience for disorder

Council faces questions over low enforcement of anti-social acts
Daniel Jaines

Daniel Jaines

Post-pandemic Lincoln: A community with less patience for disorder

Residents are "less tolerant" of anti-social behaviour from their neighbours after the COVID pandemic, officers have said.

However, questions have been raised about the low number of enforcement actions.

The City of Lincoln Council's Performance Scrutiny Committee heard how the authority's Public Protection Anti-social Behaviour Team received 4,049 requests for service in 2022-23.

This follows a drop during the pandemic to 2,523 in 2020-21 before a sharp rise to 3,815 in 2021-22 - 20% higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2018-19.

Conservative Councillor Rachel Storer questioned why the figures had "jumped" so high.

Assistant Director for Health and Environmental Services Simon Colburn told councillors, "We all feel the effects of the post-COVID world and what that looks like in our communities.

"People's either lack of tolerance towards their neighbours, their engagement with public services, or the way they behave in their community - a big chunk of this is a reflection of that."

He added, "Some public services have dropped off after COVID, and some funding streams have been cut, so there's a big combination of things. But I think it genuinely is that post-COVID world that we feel; it's those complaints coming in."

He said this was reflected in increases in fly-tipping, as well as "disrespectful" rather than illegal behaviour.

He said the council was continuing its drive to encourage reporting issues and support communities.

Officers also defended the low enforcement numbers, particularly around fly-tipping.

Councillor Tom Dyer noted that, despite there being more than 4,000 requests, there were fewer than 300 cases enforced.

"Most of those are in one subject area," he said.

"Within the report, you go on about how well you're informing people about how to report fly-tipping, but we can see that people can report it, but the council doesn't actually enforce fly-tipping; it doesn't actually do anything, so it's a pointless exercise.

"We're spending taxpayers' money to train people how to report fly-tipping, then on the next page, it's clear the council doesn't actually do anything.

"Why is it so low?" he asked.

According to the report, the PPASB team had served a total of 228 community protection warnings, and officers highlighted the benefit of early warnings and intervention issues.

Under environmental issues, the council noted that it had issued a fixed penalty notice for five fly-tipping incidents in 2022-23, with one community protection notice and one littering fixed penalty notice.

Twenty community protection notices and 13 fixed penalty notices had been issued for bins on streets.

There had been one property closure due to ASB, 13 criminal behaviour orders, two injunctions, and five community protection notices.

Eight properties had been issued noise abatement notices, and one had been given a community protection notice.

Mr. Colburn told councillors that the low level of enforcement was "not an indication of low quality or low rate".

"It is low-level end-of-life tiered enforcement," he said.

"We don’t have a zero-policy approach. We have to follow national codes and practices around warning, engaging, and notifying people.

"Every single complaint is actioned by members of staff. That can be everything from knocking on a door, sending a letter, or escalating that activity.

"As we go through those processes, most people comply. It is a very low proportion of people that are caught by traffic police or a speed camera.

"8/9 out of ten notices don’t come back to require investigation.

"Is that failed enforcement? Absolutely not; it's positive engagement that shows we are proactively tackling that issue."

He said the authority worked with agencies, the public, and communities to tackle issues.

Regarding the low fly-tipping results, he added, "Fly-tipping is an offence that blights our communities; it is disgusting behaviour by a very small few.

"However, it is incredibly difficult [to investigate] because people know it is illegal, it is an offence, and they know they can get serious fines. Most people are not stupid.

"They don’t leave names and addresses and labels with the rubbish, so it is very difficult to nail prosecution onto the end of a fly-tipping case.

"If we could get more, we would," he said.

During the meeting, councillors also asked for clarity around new noxious fume regulations and dog fouling, as well as commenting on the lack of policing following changes to PCSO and ASB teams.