A strategy to tackle the growing problem of anti-social behaviour has been adopted by Galway County Council – despite the fact that a number of councillors felt it didn’t go far enough enough.
They told a Council meeting that it didn’t have sufficient power to combat the few neighbours from hell who were making life miserable for others.
They said that they felt the Council didn’t have the will – or the staff – to monitor and carry out measures aimed at punishing those involved in this behaviour.
Nonetheless the policy, which has been put together to reduce incidences of anti-social behaviour and bullying on council estates, will now be rolled out among all social housing tenants.
Michael Owens, Director of Services for Housing, told the meeting that the number of tenants involved in anti-social behaviour was small but that it affected many.
He said the Council was adopting a multi-agency approach to work together to minimise the problem.
Councillor Jimmy McClearn said the matter was quite simple — that the tenancy agreement had to be enforced by ensuring every tenant signed up to it and afterwards that the Council had to have the strength to take appropriate measures to deal with problems as they arose.
“We are refusing to listen to those making the complaints about their neighbours from hell and we are not dealing with those causing the problems. If it’s only a small number of people, let’s deal with the problem instead of shuffling papers around a table,” he said.
He added that the behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated at any level and that tenants should know they would be out the door if they continued behaving in such a manner as to make life miserable for their neighbours.
Cllr Tom McHugh recalled the situation in Tuam and Ahascragh were dozens of council houses were wreaked by tenants.
He said the few involved in anti-social behaviour were bullies who played music loudly well into the early hours of the morning, brought their fights out onto the green and caused disruptions safe in the knowledge that they could get away with it.
“We should have strong deterrents to stop this. No point in bringing them to Court if the judiciary can’t do anything about it. Their benefits should be reduced. It’s not fair to others who are paying their rents,” he said.
Cllr Shaun Cunniffe said he wouldn’t be supporting the strategy as it lacked any teeth and that those who lived a ‘life of benefits and didn’t engage with education or employment’ should face ejection if they didn’t comply with their tenancy agreements.
Many people were afraid to lodge a complaint against an unruly neighbour, said Cllr Dermot Connolly, and even when they did, they were very reluctant to sign a complaint or give evidence if the matter went to Court.
It was often the case, he added, that it was vulnerable people whose lives were ruined by the anti-social behaviour of others.
Another councillor, Pete Roche, reminded the meeting that it wasn’t as if they hadn’t a similar strategy before now and wondered if the Local Authority had the will or the staff to police unruly tenants.
He said that a local court heard the case recently of a tenant physically and verbally assaulting Council staff, something he described as torture and wondered what assurances could be given that this would not be repeated.
Cllr Roche said the Council had to be prepared to be unpopular and tackle these unruly tenants.
Councillors around the chamber had their own stories about unruly tenants and most voiced their concerns that no strategy could tackle the problem.
It was also noted that as well as being a landlord, the Council was also the housing agency with the responsibility of housing the very people that might be evicted under the anti-social behaviour strategy.
But despite the many concerns raised, it was adopted.