The Chartered Institute of Housing believes that Mr Straw would be wrong to set this as the sole test of whether councils are taking action on neighbour nuisance. There are other legal remedies, such as possession orders and injunctions, which councils can use. For example, in the two years 1996-98, the use of action to obtain possession of houses owned by councils, on the basis of neighbour nuisance, more than doubled.
ASBOs are part of an armoury of weapons to tackle neighbour nuisance and councils need to use the ones most appropriate to the circumstances. ASBOs are directed at individuals but often the problem is about whole families. Eviction may be the best answer, but that needs to be combined with remedial action to tackle the family's problems rather than simply moving the problems to a new area.
Brian Griffiths, president of the CIH, said: 'All the evidence points to the need for more effective partnership working between local agencies such as the council, the police and the courts as being the key to tackling anti-social behaviour more rapidly. The home office should concentrate on promoting more effective partnerships at local level rather than simply judging progress on whether the new legal powers are being used. Legal powers are a last resort and the majority of cases of neighbour nuisance are best tackled in other ways.'
Neighbour Nuisance Social Landlords and the Law is a publication to be launched in July by the CIH and the Joseph Rowntree Housing.