I have been wanting to write a post for ages called ‘report it’, and was prompted to start it today when I was going back through casework.
Sadly, other councillors and I spend a lot of time talking to residents about problems they are experiencing, from pot holes, to loud noise, to fly tipping. I forward this information on to officers, who will whenever they can follow it up and deal with it. More and more, though, I find myself saying to people ‘please report it’ and so I wanted to write a bit more about why.
I have a few ongoing cases at the moment, which are at very different stages. One of them concerned ongoing noise, litter and ASB, and seems (fingers tightly crossed) to have been stopped. One of them concerns noise and disruption, and I am cautiously optimistic that it will be stopped soon. One of them concerns noise and disruption and I’m currently not that optimistic.
And what’s the difference between these cases? Reporting. In the first case, the neighbours all got together and decided that they weren’t having it. They contacted their councillors, they contacted the police, they even formed a little local whatsapp group to share information. They ensured each and every time they were disturbed, that they reported. Result? The police and the Council both had information that showed a repeated disturbance, over a period of time. It was taken seriously, and the police showed up, and now the problems of noise and litter aren’t happening in a place that was showing all the signs of becoming a trouble spot. (Of course there are a number of caveats here. One is that an ‘enforcement only’ approach can often just move the problem around rather than solving it, and that may well be what’s happened here. But prevention is a bigger issue than I can deal with here! I will come back to it. For the moment, rest assured that I know things are complex, and am not complacent.)
In the second case, I heard from a resident about persistent noise and disturbance from a local building. My heart sank a little, until I found that the Noise and Nuisance team at the Council had such an ongoing record of complaints and problems that they were already pursuing it. I therefore contacted them to add my concerns, advised the resident to speak to neighbours, and he has got together a petition as well. All the information will be looked at soon by the Licensing Committee, who are considering whether this venue should continue to have an alcohol licence or whether their licence should be changed. Seyi and I both formally sent in a joint objection to how things currently are (she’d had casework from around this venue too), and one of us will try to attend the hearing to make our residents’ case.
In the third case, similarly there is a problem with ongoing noise and fumes and disturbance which has been disrupting the lives of residents for some considerable time. However, without going into the specifics of this particular case, the residents have been collecting information about it, but due to the involvement of an external organisation who are the landlord (and with whom I’m extremely frustrated), there isn’t the ongoing record that we need at the Council in order to be able to take action. I’m therefore going back to the residents now, who are understandably dis-spirited, to encourage them, as I am encouraging you now, to report, starting from now, so that we can collect evidence from this point onwards.
I know that reporting can feel annoying. I also know it can feel pointless, especially if you are reporting the same thing. Reporting fly tipping at the same spot, again and again, feels like throwing information into the abyss…. but the more reports the Council receives the more we can make the case that the data shows this is a ‘hotspot’ and deserving of special attention by the local ward enforcement officer and / or the fly tipping team. Reporting noise again and again feels like it achieves nothing, but the Council has legal powers to take action against people and businesses who are causing an ongoing nuisance … but to do that we need ongoing information. Reporting that your street hasn’t been swept is frustrating, but if you contact us to tell us your street is regularly unswept, and when the officer assures us it always is, we can refer them to a series of Love Newham reports where, every two weeks, it is reported as unswept, we can be much firmer about requiring a solution!
I was also very struck once by meeting a resident who had lots of ideas for the improvement of her street and area, and also a list of problems that she wanted resolved. She reported regular ASB and noise and trouble, and also small scale flooding. When I asked (tentatively) if she reported it, she told me confidently, “They know.”
“They know.” Honesty, I felt a bit despairing. I wanted to say, “Um, *I* didn’t know!”
Of course, I am not denying that reports get lost, and I am sure this resident was in touch with all the right people a long time ago, and nothing happened, and she now feels ignored. But it’s very hard to know what we can do now, when Seyi and I go back to Enforcement and to the police, who tell us that this particular area isn’t a trouble spot, as far as they’re concerned, because they have received no complaints.
At risk of talking myself round in circles, I can’t round off this paean to reporting without acknowledging that there are structural issues with reporting, which I’m always aware of. I know some people aren’t able to report, or are unwilling to, or find it more difficult, or are frightened of the consequences, and that issues of socioeconomic background, race, disability, gender, and deprivation will always mean that some voices are heard more loudly than others. And I remind myself (and Seyi reminds me) that the loud voices aren’t always the neediest ones. As councillors we are always looking for and thinking about ways that we can help to amplify voices that won’t be heard otherwise. I also think there are things we could do structurally to ‘close the loop’, so that people who send in information can hear about what happens as a result, and be motivated to continue to do so.
But if you’re reading this, and if you have easy internet access, and a phone, please do keep reporting, and don’t be disspirited. Please help us to direct the Council’s resources to the places where they are needed, help us to have accurate information about how things are, and we can make a difference.
Report it – useful contacts
This is the single best and easiest way to report a huge variety of different things to the Council. There are a number of categories including fly tipping, but also dog fouling, graffiti, problems with the road or kerb, broken road signs, and much more.
Use the Love Newham app which you can download to your phone.
There is a ‘report it’ page on the Newham Council website, with a big long list of different things that you can report. This includes I think all of the categories on Love Newham, but also noise, possible breaches of planning, and unlicensed rented properties.
Regarding reporting ongoing noise, the team says:
‘Before you complain about noise, please take these steps.
– Try to solve the problem in a friendly way by talking to the person or company causing the noise if you feel comfortable with this.
– If this does not work, you could try taking other informal steps such as mediation – for more information go to the Problem Neighbours website.
– If you still can’t solve the problem, complain to us.’
If the noise is happening right now, you can report it to Newham 24 hours a day on 020 8430 2000. You may need to leave a message, and a member of the team will endeavour to call you back within an hour, depending on the volume of calls they are receiving.
I really hope that this information is useful, and that the reports you make are acted on. As ever, if they’re not please contact one of us and we’ll chase it up for you.