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    Unruly behaviour top of the list

    Noisy and anti-social neighbours are to be targeted in a new Government-led crackdown - and Lincolnshire has been given £1.5m to do the job.

    Councils have been ordered to make tackling unruly behaviour among their tenants a top priority.

    The Government has announced it was to give councils in England an average £63 more per council home.

    Lincolnshire authorities own and manage 24,300 houses, bungalows and flats, even though many thousands have been handed over to housing associations in recent years.

    The extra money represents a cash increase of 8.1 per cent for management and 5.7 per cent for maintenance and is part of a revised funding formula for town halls' housing departments.

    The grant could also be followed up with a new fast-track system to deal with complaints of residents' anti-social behaviour, Ministers said.

    The move was welcomed by Lincoln City Council housing director John Bibby (above), who is responsible for a £33m annual budget to run the city authority's housing stock of 8,500 flats, bungalows and council houses.

    The council currently spends £7m a year on repairs and maintenance

    Mr Bibby said he could not immediately quantify what the new money would mean in cash terms. It would take at least a month to determine the exact figure because of the "complicated" housing subsidy formula.

    But Mr Bibby said: "Anything that adds to the council's powers to tackle anti-social behaviour has to be good news.

    "The main criticism we get from tenants is that the system is so long-winded because people involved in allegations of anti-social behaviour have the right to appeal.

    "If this means there is accompanying legislation to fast-track complaints, it has to be welcomed."

    Councillor Lynne Gray, who holds the city council executive's housing portfolio, confirmed that complaints took a long time to process.

    She added: "It can take up to 18 months from the initial complaint to secure an eviction order for anti-social behaviour.

    "But this problem is not limited to council housing stock - 50 per cent of complaints which I get are from the private housing sector.

    "And this problem is not as widespread in Lincoln as in other cities.

    "But, when people's lives are made a misery, it is difficult for them to understand why it takes so long to investigate their complaints and actually take action."

    South Kesteven District Council manages 7,000 properties, North Kesteven 4,500 and South Holland 4,300.

    West Lindsey, East Lindsey and Boston councils have all transferred their properties to housing associations.

    Housing Minister Lord Rooker said the extra Housing Revenue Account money would improve tenants' quality of life.

    He said: "We are combating years of under-investment in the fabric of council stock.

    "The Prime Minister has stated his personal commitment to fighting anti-social behaviour. Local authorities, as social landlords, are essential in winning this battle.

    "This cash increase will boost their efforts in tackling this blight through imaginative prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation initiatives."

    Graham Templeman, Hartsholme Association of Residents and Tenants chairman, said: "It is only a small amount of money, but it is well worth it if it can be used to stop just one person being hassled."

    (Taken from the Lincolnshire Echo)

    Story first published on 11/18/02