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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Nuisance neighbour crackdown
run-down estate
Laws exist to evict anti-social tenants
Home Secretary Jack Straw has urged local authorities to target nuisance neighbours in a crackdown on anti-social behaviour - but he denied that legislation to deal with the problem had failed.

Unveiling a three year initiative to tackle so-called "neighbours from hell", Mr Straw said that he wanted to see more use made of anti-social behaviour orders, arguing that they were a vital weapon to stop people terrorising communities.

So far only 30 such orders have been made across the country but a report from the government's social exclusion suggests anti-social behaviour is on the rise.
Jack Straw
Jack Straw: Powers not used enough
The legislation allows local authorities to seek the eviction of council tenants if they do not agree to end anti-social behaviour, such as intimidation, vandalism or harassment of their neighbours.

Announcing the plan, drawn up by the social exclusion unit, Mr Straw said that a central government group would offer support to local authorities who want to make more use of the law.

The unit's report into anti-social behaviour recommends that the same right of eviction should be written into contracts between private landlords and their tenants.

Mr Straw said that graffiti and vandalism was costing the nation some 1.3bn alone.

"Where the orders have been used they had proved a success," said Mr Straw.

"But I want to see more of them used to help the innocent victims of harassment and intimidation.

"Left unchecked anti-social behaviour brings misery to people's lives, destroys communities and can lead to abandoned housing.

"Such behaviour damages quality of life and carries a real cost for individuals, families and agencies."

The social exclusion unit reports that there is evidence of a "worrying upward trend" in anti-social behaviour, including noisy neighbours, litter and rubbish in the streets to pets running out of control and open drug dealing.

The plan also recommends neighbourhood agreements to set minimum standards of behaviour and a greater use of neighbourhood wardens.

Shelter backs report

Supporting the findings, the leading housing charity Shelter said Mr Straw should be concentrating on preventing the problem rather than just on tough measures to tackle it.

"Shelter backs the Social Exclusion Unit's emphasis on a preventative approach that prioritises tackling the underlying social problems before unacceptable behaviour escalates," said Nicola Bacon, head of policy at the charity.

"Until now the debate has been polarised and emotive. This report provides a practical way to find solutions."

In one recent use of the law, two families whose children had been accused of roaming wild and terrorising neighbours were evicted from a Leeds council estate in January.

The city's council said that it had built up a dossier of complaints against the children.

Over an 18-month period they had subjected a Turkish neighbour to racial abuse, verbally attacked elderly residents, attempted to steal medical bags from an ambulance, burgled homes and committed acts of vandalism.

See also:

06 Sep 99 | UK Politics
Child orders 'last resort'
03 Sep 99 | Scotland
Love thy neighbour - or else
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