Revealed - Drugs and anti-social behaviour behind soaring number of tenancy court cases
PUBLISHED: 07:16 08 July 2019
Court cases to enforce tenancy agreements have skyrocketed as a result of drug dealing and anti-social behaviour in Ipswich, new data reveals.
Ipswich Borough Council was forced to pursue court action to enforce tenancies at its properties 89 times last year - more than seven times the maximum target of 12.
It represented an increase from the 67 cases in 2017/18.
Data presented to the council's scrutiny committee on Thursday night said it was anti-social behaviour, county lines drug dealing and cuckooing - where drug dealers take over people's homes to use it as a base to supply from - are behind an increase in court cases. However, the number of closure orders has not been made clear.
Labour councillor Neil MacDonald, portfolio holder for housing, said: "It's a shockingly high amount. Maybe it does reflect the increased drug problem in the town."
Ian Blofield, the council's head of housing, said the council was pursuing more action.
"There's a lot more information that comes through in terms of the multi-agency team that's working around county lines," he said.
"If you do have cases that need legal action we try and do that because we try to deal with the issue."
Among the options available to the council and police by pursuing court action can be a closure order.
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PC Hannah Canning, Suffolk police's anti-social behaviour officer, said: "Closure orders are used as a powerful tool where it has become apparent that the use of a property has resulted in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour, or where serious nuisance has been caused to members of the public. This may occur in premises associated with drug use or drug supply."
PC Canning said information from neighbours was vital to building a case, and added: "We're committed to tackling and reducing this type of behaviour, which can have a detrimental effect on local residents and communities.
"Closures can be a positive outcome, helping to improve the quality of life for those concerned. We listen to the concerns of local residents, and use our powers to the fullest."
Ian Fisher, Conservative group leader at the borough council however said more detail was needed from the figures.
"The Conservative group believes there to be a complete failure of the administration to enforce tenancy conditions across their housing stock, which in turn is causing misery to those residents affected by the anti-social behaviour [ASB]," he said.
"It has become increasingly difficult for cases to be considered as ASB, the staff dealing with these issues are constantly changing and there seems to be no real continuity in any decisions made.
"The ASB is happening across our town but there is a deficit in it being recorded.
"The Conservative group is concerned that too many court actions are resulting in suspended evictions with action only to be taken on a further breach of tenancy conditions.
"I myself have personal experience through my role as a ward councillor of an issue where this is the case and since the suspended eviction was granted further tenancy breaches have taken place, but no further action has been taken.
"The administration must provide further explanation as to what the 89 court actions were and the results of these actions."