Neighbour disputes probe finds 'steady increase' of recorded incidents

A council probe, which is trying to understand the scale of the problem locally, has returned telling statistics.

Neighbour disputes probe finds ‘steady increase’ of recorded incidents in Renfrewshire iStock

An investigation into neighbour disputes in Renfrewshire has found a “steady and gradual increase” in the number recorded in the area.

A council probe, which is trying to understand the scale of the problem locally, has returned telling statistics, which indicate reports and complaints about the issue are largely on the rise.

Andrew Noble, lead officer for the review, which defines a dispute as a “disagreement that causes stress or friction,” provided an update on the project at Monday’s audit, risk and scrutiny board.

He referenced data from Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), the council’s community safety team and housing services, and Police Scotland.

The CAB contact sheet information found the number of neighbour issues had risen from 104 in 2020 to 154 in 2021 and further to 169 in 2022.

Antisocial behaviour complaints received by the council’s housing service did drop from 690 in 2019/20 to 514 in 2020/21, but increased to 713 in 2021/22.

Meanwhile neighbour disputes recorded by the police have risen year on year from 891 in 2018/19 to 1,109 in 2021/22.

Mr Noble said the figures don’t offer a “complete picture” – citing potential data gaps and overlaps between services – but confirmed the volume of reports is growing.

He explained: “What the data does show, I think, across all the service areas, bar one, is a steady and gradual increase in the number neighbour disputes that are being recorded by various organisations, with the exception of domestic noise complaints which fell and fell quite markedly between 2019/20 and 2020/21.

“The best estimate as to why that happened is due to the Covid pandemic, where council officers couldn’t attend a domestic noise event and couldn’t be there to record it, because they couldn’t enter people’s houses, so over time the number of domestic noise complaints fell.

“I suppose, paradoxically, one of the reasons why we might see this fairly substantial increase and number of complaints being recorded across the different services is the Covid pandemic, with more people being home for longer and more potential for disputes and friction between households.”

The next stage of the review will set out the current approaches the council and other stakeholders have for tackling disputes and examine actions available to resolve them.

Conservative councillor James MacLaren, who represents Bishopton and Bridge of Weir, said: “I recognise this is a good report with a lot of detail.

“It certainly seems to highlight that this is a serious problem.”

Labour councillor and depute board convener Kevin Montgomery, a Paisley Southwest rep, said it was clear “a lot of work” had gone into this first part of the investigation.

He added: “As previously declared, I’ve got a connection to the issue because the Citizens Advice Bureau advises on neighbour issues and in fact it’s one of the hardest issues to advise on because often the remedies available are actually quite weak.

“I think agencies take it more seriously than they used to but there are still massive shortcomings.

“The next stage of the report – when it reviews the current disposals and actions available to the council and others to resolve neighbour disputes – that might be very interesting.

“I welcome the report, there’s a lot of detail went into it and, as somebody who works in the sector, it reads pretty accurately to me.”

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