Episode 3 Call the Council


Episode 3

Series following council officers. In this episode, local council officers intervene when tensions run high between neighbours at war over a water supply.


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Transcript


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From waste and recycling to pest control and trading standards,

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the taxes that we pay to our local councils

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are used to provide many of our most essential services.

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I like people who are keen to recycle.

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In this series we follow the frontline staff

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working behind the walls of Tameside Town Hall in Greater Manchester.

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Like council officers across the country,

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these local heroes are waging war on those blighting our communities.

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Oi, oi, oi! Excuse me, love. You can't do that!

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They're protecting us from hidden dangers...

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There's rodents under your kitchen, you won't be opening tonight. It's simple.

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..making sure our cash is spent on those who need it most...

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I'm at a loose end. I do not know where to turn.

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..and responding to their residents when they Call The Council.

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Coming up:

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Council officers intervene when tensions run high

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between neighbours at war over a water supply.

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There's no water coming to the taps in the utility,

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there's no water in the cistern downstairs.

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We've got bottled water to flush the toilets.

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The allegations are that that is being turned on and off

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to stop supply.

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It's not in my interest to cut my own business off with the water supply.

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A whole street full of residents call the council

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when their houses are overrun by mice.

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I'll start with you and I'll come and see you

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and then I'll knock on...

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And an officer responds to another resident desperate for help

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to solve a serious damp issue.

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I have no idea what's the matter with it

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but I just want it sorted out.

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The UK's 63 million residents depend on each and every one

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of their 433 local authorities to keep their communities clean,

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safe and to provide many essential services.

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Good afternoon. Environmental services.

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And whether it's road maintenance, waste management or pest control,

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as taxpayers, we expect value for money.

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In Tameside, a borough of Greater Manchester,

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there are over 2,000 council employees waiting to respond

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whenever a resident calls the council.

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The fact that you can keep people safe

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and that you make a difference to people

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who ask for help from the local authority

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is a great thing to be able to achieve

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and it does give you job satisfaction.

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Be it noise nuisance, nasty smells,

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high hedges or antisocial behaviour, complaints about our neighbours

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rank highly amongst the 50 million calls

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made to our councils in one year alone.

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Official government advice is that neighbours should try

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to resolve any arguments by talking to each other

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or using a mediation service

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but communication at Thorncliffe Hall Farm has broken down.

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Resident Gill Cooper believes her water supply is being

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restricted by a neighbour and has called the council.

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We have no water coming into the house through

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what would be our mains supply.

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The cold water, as you can see, is dry, completely dry.

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We have got some hot water that comes from the tanks.

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In terms of cooking, I have to use bottled water.

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Gill and the four other properties in this hamlet aren't connected

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to the mains water supply that 99% of us draw our water from.

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Instead they share a private supply from a nearby spring.

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The pipes from the spring are designed to channel water

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to all four properties but Gill's supply is intermittent

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and she believes her neighbour, who runs a livery business,

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is controlling the water via a stop tap in her garden.

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An allegation the neighbour, Gaynor McCormack, strenuously denies.

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It is not a fair allegation

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because the pressure problem is somewhere back across the meadows.

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Strictly speaking, the council has no legal obligation to get involved

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if a water supply is insufficient

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but because Gill has made some serious allegations

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about her supply being interrupted

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and in an effort to resolve their resident's distress,

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environmental services officer Kevin Greenwood is stepping in.

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In the first instance we, as an authority,

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always try to get the people who are responsible themselves

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to carry out the work and take ownership of the problem.

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That would always be our first stance.

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In this particular case, because of communication difficulties

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between the residents, that has not been possible.

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It's not just Gill who is claiming to have a restricted water supply.

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Mike Savage, who owns the end property,

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is also making allegations against Gaynor McCormack.

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We can't even spend or pass the time of day with each other any more.

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Because it's got to that point where we know what's been going on.

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Things are blatantly rubbed in your face,

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like the waste of water or the butts that's evident

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outside the property now, that she can fill up five big containers

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of water constantly, all day long

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yet nobody else has got even a dribble coming through the tap.

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That water supply supplies my own business

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where I have to water 23 horses twice a day.

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Why on earth would I put myself through that kind of manual labour,

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having to pail water through my property?

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Hi. Good evening.

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Sorry we're a little bit late. The traffic was horrendous.

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Kevin needs to investigate the claims

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with Gill and her partner Dave.

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There's no water coming to the taps in the utility,

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there's no water in the cistern downstairs.

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We've got bottled water to flush the toilets.

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-That has been like that for the last eight or nine weeks.

-At that.

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-Like that.

-So does it stop at all, or is it slow like that?

-It stops.

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-It stops.

-The majority of the time we don't have a supply.

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Gill and Dave believe the problem lies with a valve

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situated in Gaynor's back yard.

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They say it's being turned off, restricting their supply

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while Gaynor's water runs freely.

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-That is under the manhole cover next door.

-In the garden.

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-And the allegation is that this...

-That's right.

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..fitting there is turned with a screwdriver to stop flow.

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-Have you ever seen anybody turning that?

-We haven't.

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'I think dealing with these awkward situations'

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where there are arguments and potential problems like this,

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a great deal of experience over the years has helped to remain calm

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and although sympathetic, dealing with it in a professional manner.

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We may feel inside a little bit more than we are allowed to show

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but we've got to deal with it professionally.

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Once it's like that, that's it.

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It's time to get in the car, take the washing to Gill's mum's,

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get a shower at Gill's mum's and that's how we've got to live.

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The only other thing I can do tonight is to knock on the door

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next door and ask them if they've got water at the taps.

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Kevin decides to visit Mrs McCormick

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and have a look at her water supply but unfortunately, she isn't in.

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-That's really as much as we can do this evening.

-Thank you.

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-OK.

-Yeah.

-Good night, now.

-For now, the dispute's unresolved.

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It's down to the council to investigate the claims further

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and find out what's causing the problems with the water.

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There's a light at the end of the tunnel now, hopefully.

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For me, I would say I'm optimistic but I'm not going to hold my breath.

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Still to come, council officer Khush makes a breakthrough.

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Would you replace that? Would you have that taken out?

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I don't mind whether that's there or not.

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But will it mean a steady stream of water returns

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to Gill and Dave's homes?

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I can't tell yet how good it will feel to just get water upstairs.

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Britain's council officers are dedicated to helping us

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fight all manner of problems, whatever their shape or size.

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Today residents of five adjoining houses have called the council

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to ask for pest control officer Brian Whelan's help.

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They're all at the mercy of mice who've infested their homes.

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I'm just filling my bag up with some poisons,

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get my torch and then I'm going to go over and knock on this door

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of the lady who's got a mouse problem so we'll see what she has to say.

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The interlinking walls and shared roof spaces

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of these terrace houses offer mice easy access to rich food supplies

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and a perfect habitat to breed in.

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They've obviously got their run of the place

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cos it's all five houses that have got the problem.

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Hopefully one of these will be the hot spot where it mainly is

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and they're just travelling through for a food source

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but we'll just wait and see and see how we go on the houses.

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Mice can produce litters of six to eight young

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and with a gestation period of just three weeks,

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in ideal conditions, females can give birth every 25 days.

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As well as spreading disease,

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mice can also chew through electrical cables and cause fires.

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Their presence can also induce phobias and stress-related illness.

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So Brian's job is to eradicate the rodents and educate the residents

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on how to pest proof their homes.

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I'll start with you and then I'll come and see you

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-and I'll knock on... Who's been organising this?

-Lorraine.

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-Next door.

-Right.

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-The instigator, yeah.

-The instigator! Not a problem.

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Where have you seen them or where is the activity?

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-The main part was loads of droppings and the mice was in here.

-Right.

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So we put some traps in, caught three,

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put them on the back of the fields and I pull that back in,

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-screwed it down and sealed that, yeah.

-Yeah.

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But we have seen them scurrying about the floor.

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Following the pipework out of here again.

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It doesn't take long for Brian to find evidence

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-of recent rodent activity.

-See that coming over the top there?

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That's what you call smear marks and that's what mice do

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if they are constantly using the hole and going through it.

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So that's what you see. Not a problem. I'll put some bait down.

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-Obviously it's poison.

-Yeah.

-They'll eat it and they'll die.

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Sometimes, obviously, you look for the markings, the smear markings.

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The smear markings are what's...

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If you remember years ago your mum and dad used to have

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the old Dralon suites and the arms used to be black.

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That's off the oil off the skin where they were jumping up and everything

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so it's similar with mice and rats.

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They have, like, an oily skin so when they're going through a hole,

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they leave markings on the side.

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Not a lot of droppings under here, is there?

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Brian has to act fast and lay poison at every access hole.

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-Hiya.

-Hiya.

-Pest control.

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-Come to check for your mice problem.

-Yeah.

-Brilliant.

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In the next house his hunt for evidence continues.

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-The only place I found droppings was behind the washing machine.

-Behind there.

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And the droppings you found were like little hundreds and thousands?

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-Little pencil leads.

-Like little hundreds and thousands. That's fine.

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-But not the same colours as hundreds and thousands.

-No. Not as tasty.

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I had a fellow once, I said to him, he goes, he says, "It's mice."

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I said, "Why? Have you seen any droppings, mate? He goes, "No."

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You won't see droppings if it's a rat

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because a rat tends to have an area where it does its business in.

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A mouse will have droppings all over the place

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as they are running and they're small.

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And I said to this guy, I says,

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"So you've not seen any hundreds and thousands? Little droppings?"

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And he turned around and went,

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"No. I've not seen any coloured droppings."

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I went, "You what?"

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And he thought that the mouse poo was going to be the same colour

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as hundreds and thousands cos I was trying to describe

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the size of the droppings and he said,

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"No, I've not seen any multicoloured poo."

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And I'm like...what am I dealing with? You know what I mean?

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But as it happens, on that day he had rats so I got my own back, didn't I?

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After almost two decades in the business,

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Brian has learned what rodents love and how to keep them at bay.

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What have you put on the traps?

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Just left the bait on that they came with.

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Put peanut butter on them, a bit of peanut butter or a bit of chocolate.

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That will be a lot better.

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Watch your magazine in here and books because obviously,

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if they're in they'll use all this for nesting material.

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What I suggest is if you get some plastic containers with lids on

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and stack them in there and then stack it in that.

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I know they can chew through the plastic

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but at least you'll know by then cos you'll see the bits.

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I always say, me, personally, I'd say putting bait down and stuff like that

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is probably 10% of the job, if you have to.

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If you don't have to there's a lot of proofing you can do,

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sealing up holes and things like that. You've won the exercise there.

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'Plus you've made a customer happy.' Thanks very much.

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Brian lays poison in two more houses in the block

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before moving on to the last home.

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I've killed four up to now.

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Two big ones and two small ones. How did I kill them? Mousetraps.

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-Snap traps.

-Snap traps, yeah.

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I won't touch them. I scream, as everybody else does.

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It just ran across the room and, oh, I jumped out my skin.

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Cos, you know, we couldn't move the Hoover out of the cupboard.

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You got my number. Give me a bell back. Take care. Thanks very much.

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To stop the mice breeding and spreading harmful diseases,

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the residents will have to pest proof their homes

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by sealing up holes and hiding potential nest making material.

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Brian will be back in a few weeks to inspect their handiwork

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and see if his bait has been taken.

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Across the country local council officers like Brian are bravely

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battling pest problems on behalf of the residents they serve.

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But despite their hard work,

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people who fail to pest proof or are careless with their waste disposal

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and hygiene regimes encourage the rodent population to grow.

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This means sightings of mice and rats are more common

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than most of us would like.

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For the last six months, we seem to have had the odd rat.

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It doesn't bother me.

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I mean, you woke up in the Army and they're as big as cats

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and sleeping at the side of you so it doesn't really worry me

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but it worries a lot of people.

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Yesterday morning I found a rat on my patio.

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And when I let the cat out, it went straight to where I'd

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picked it up from so I think the cat had something to do with it.

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Round about 40 years ago,

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that's when I saw a rat over the road and funnily enough,

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it was the bloody dog that caught it.

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I haven't come across anything of that nature and if I do,

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I will just run!

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But it's not just rats and mice living too close for comfort

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that upsets us Brits.

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Estate agent estimates suggest that just under 50 householders

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a day are selling up to get away from their neighbours.

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Mediating neighbourhood disputes is far from easy,

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but without the work of local council officers like Syed Huda,

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these figures would be a lot higher.

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I love properties,

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I love structures and how the properties are built

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and I also like to help people

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so combine the two, I find it quite interesting for me and, you know,

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otherwise I wouldn't be doing it for that many years, to be honest.

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Syed's been tackling issues with landlords,

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tenants and their neighbours for 18 years.

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Today he is helping resident Fay Parker.

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Fay's tried and failed to get the owner of her next door

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neighbour's house to replace his rotten gutters.

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She believes the damage is causing damp in her bedroom

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and wants it fixed. So she's called the council.

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I have no idea what's the matter with it

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but I just want it sorted out.

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Council officer Syed arrives to inspect the damp

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and see if he can help Fay.

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-Hi.

-Hi, Mrs Parker. Syed Huda from Tameside Council.

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It's Fay's front bedroom that seems to be suffering most.

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So, we've just decorated this room.

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The ceiling, I've painted it and painted it and painted it

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-and it still shows through.

-Right.

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-You can see the mark, can't you?

-Yeah.

-You can see the mark.

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Right. I need to solve the issue with the gutter. That's why...

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-Yeah.

-..if that's the main problem for you.

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To measure the moisture Syed uses a damp meter.

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A red light indicates an issue.

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That's very damp, isn't it?

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MACHINE BEEPS

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I've got a house like a leaky colander.

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Untreated damp can cause rot in your home and encourage dust mites.

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And, if the mould it produces is left untreated,

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it can increase the risk of respiratory illnesses like mycosis.

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With damp detected, Syed must now find the source.

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Look up there.

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-You can see the join between our gutter and his gutter.

-Yes.

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So if his gutter gets full and blocked up with leaves and rubbish

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and things, which it does, then the water backs up and it also...

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..blocks us off as well and we are getting absolutely fed up with it.

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-He just doesn't take care of the outside of the house.

-I understand.

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I have to be absolutely 100% certain

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-that you've got damp in your property because of the faulty gutter.

-Right.

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Can you see the way it's dripping?

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It's not hitting the wall, it's actually landing away from the wall.

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I understand that.

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So, for us to send any enforcement notice or request him to do anything,

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-I have to say it's causing either party a damp or mould issue.

-Yeah.

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Whilst Syed can't see irrefutable evidence

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that the poor state of the neighbour's guttering is causing damp in Fay's house,

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he has noted parts of it are broken,

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which is likely to cause problems elsewhere.

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It is leaking onto next door's property.

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This means he can help Fay.

0:19:130:19:16

You could see quite clearly that both joints are leaking quite badly

0:19:170:19:21

and your neighbour's side, on the other side of the property,

0:19:210:19:25

is leaking onto his path and rainwater bouncing off onto his wall

0:19:250:19:30

so eventually he will get damp in the ground floor level

0:19:300:19:34

so what I'll do now,

0:19:340:19:36

I will contact the owner of the property

0:19:360:19:39

and I will ask him to replace the gutter.

0:19:390:19:43

That would be brilliant. That would be absolutely brilliant.

0:19:430:19:47

-OK, are you happy with that?

-Yes, brilliant.

0:19:470:19:49

-Thank you very much. I'll keep in touch.

-Thank you very much indeed.

0:19:490:19:52

-All right. Thanks very much. Thank you.

-Bye.

-Bye-bye.

0:19:520:19:55

Private landlords have a responsibility

0:19:550:19:59

to clear and maintain their gutters.

0:19:590:20:02

Failure to do could result in the council

0:20:020:20:04

serving a notice to demand repairs.

0:20:040:20:06

Syed heads back to the Council's HQ to call

0:20:060:20:09

the owner of Fay's neighbouring property.

0:20:090:20:13

When I was there this morning it was raining and you could see

0:20:130:20:17

quite clearly that it's not just dripping, it's quite badly...

0:20:170:20:22

On both ends, not just one end.

0:20:220:20:24

Basically, I'm just asking you to get the gutter replaced, to be honest.

0:20:240:20:30

He gives the owner 28 days to repair the leaking gutter.

0:20:300:20:34

If people were to communicate with each other better,

0:20:340:20:37

then it is probably not entirely true that they don't have

0:20:370:20:40

to get in touch with the council, it makes life easier for everybody

0:20:400:20:44

but ultimately, we are the enforcing authority

0:20:440:20:47

and somebody has to enforce the act of Parliament.

0:20:470:20:50

All right. Thanks a lot. Thanks for your time. Bye-bye, now. Bye-bye.

0:20:500:20:53

Bye-bye.

0:20:530:20:55

Syed's not alone in his quest to resolve

0:21:040:21:06

a dispute between neighbours.

0:21:060:21:09

His local council colleagues up and down the country

0:21:090:21:12

face what sometimes seems like a never-ending battle

0:21:120:21:15

to find peace between neighbours at war.

0:21:150:21:17

Environmental services. Phil Rogers speaking.

0:21:170:21:19

'When neighbours get to have a dislike for one another,'

0:21:190:21:22

it is really difficult to try and resolve the situation

0:21:220:21:25

because they can't see past it,

0:21:250:21:27

'even if you offer them a reasonable solution for both parties to move forward,'

0:21:270:21:32

that's invariably envisaged by one as an accession

0:21:320:21:36

and they don't want to give way, they don't want to be seen to be

0:21:360:21:39

giving way and once you get into that kind of entrenched position,

0:21:390:21:41

it's really, really difficult to get out of.

0:21:410:21:44

People seem to be quite distant from each other.

0:21:460:21:49

You know, neighbours might not speak to each other for weeks

0:21:490:21:52

on end until something goes wrong and unfortunately,

0:21:520:21:56

when something does go wrong, they sort of just have a big fallout.

0:21:560:22:01

We all tend to mind our own business a little bit more

0:22:020:22:05

and go inside and just shut the door on it.

0:22:050:22:08

I don't think the generations lived together as much

0:22:080:22:11

as they perhaps used to but I think people now,

0:22:110:22:13

by the time they've got their mobiles and their computers

0:22:130:22:15

and their telly, they don't need to go outside and they don't.

0:22:150:22:19

When I bought the house that I've lived in for 30 years,

0:22:190:22:22

before I bought the house I did knock on the door and speak to the

0:22:220:22:25

neighbours before I even put an offer in for the property.

0:22:250:22:29

So I was making my own assessment of what my neighbours,

0:22:290:22:32

certainly for the foreseeable future, might be like.

0:22:320:22:34

Because that, in a sense, could put me off buying that property.

0:22:340:22:37

Fortunately it didn't and I bought it.

0:22:370:22:40

If neighbours spoke to each other then I'm sure

0:22:400:22:42

a lot of the complaints that come to my service area wouldn't come.

0:22:420:22:46

We find ourselves actually getting in there

0:22:460:22:48

and almost mediating between neighbours

0:22:480:22:51

to actually get that resolution

0:22:510:22:53

and more times than often that we will do that

0:22:530:22:56

without necessarily taking any enforcement action at all

0:22:560:23:00

but just actually getting people to talk

0:23:000:23:02

to resolve the issues that they have.

0:23:020:23:05

Six miles from the council HQ, the environmental services team

0:23:110:23:15

is trying to help resolve a dispute between Gill Cooper and her neighbour.

0:23:150:23:19

Gill's called the council to complain about her intermittent water supply.

0:23:190:23:23

There is water to next-door's property

0:23:240:23:27

and the majority of the time we don't have a supply.

0:23:270:23:30

Rather than a regular mains supply,

0:23:310:23:34

the neighbours should be sharing a water supply from a nearby spring.

0:23:340:23:37

Gill claims that her feed from the spring is being

0:23:370:23:40

shut off by her next-door neighbour Gaynor,

0:23:400:23:43

who strenuously denies that the problem is anything to do with her.

0:23:430:23:47

It's not a fair allegation.

0:23:470:23:49

That water supply supplies my own business where

0:23:490:23:51

I have to water 23 horses twice a day.

0:23:510:23:55

Why on earth would I put myself through that kind of manual labour,

0:23:550:23:58

having to pail water through my property?

0:23:580:24:01

With the neighbours at loggerheads, Council Officer Khush Ahmed

0:24:020:24:06

and his colleague Charlotte are stepping in to mediate.

0:24:060:24:09

'When you are dealing with issues like this'

0:24:120:24:15

and you've got a number of people that basically have got to

0:24:150:24:18

a stage where they physically can't talk to each other,

0:24:180:24:21

you end up as intermediary.

0:24:210:24:23

Up until now, Gaynor McCormack has denied anyone access

0:24:270:24:30

to inspect the pipework in her back yard

0:24:300:24:33

and to help resolve the dispute, 24 hours ago,

0:24:330:24:36

Kush served Gaynor with a notice of intended entry and has asked a plumber to assess the problem.

0:24:360:24:42

We're going to be looking at the pipework at the rear

0:24:420:24:46

of the property where you have got a situation.

0:24:460:24:49

There's a stop tap that can restrict a supply

0:24:490:24:54

to a number of cottages at the end

0:24:540:24:56

so what we're going to be doing is a test on the pipework

0:24:560:25:00

to see when the valve's on and off to see how it restricts the supply.

0:25:000:25:05

Just need to go around here.

0:25:050:25:07

Gill Cooper claims that Gaynor is stopping the flow of water

0:25:070:25:10

to her house by turning a stop valve to off.

0:25:100:25:14

This is the subject of what everybody's

0:25:150:25:18

jumping up and down about.

0:25:180:25:20

They think that is in a position or stuck in a position

0:25:200:25:23

that is hindering the supply that way.

0:25:230:25:26

Restricts supply to the cottage.

0:25:260:25:29

Which includes my supply of my business out there.

0:25:290:25:32

-If that was turned, Bill, if that was turned...

-If that was shut off.

0:25:320:25:37

-That would isolate the water.

-Cut-off that way, absolutely. That's right.

0:25:370:25:41

And that's not even functional. You can't, I couldn't turn that.

0:25:410:25:45

-It shouldn't be on there anyway.

-No.

-It's the wrong sort of fitting.

0:25:450:25:49

-That...

-Is insufficient.

-Well, it actually restricts the flow.

0:25:490:25:53

If you take that out, the inside of that would be the size of my nail.

0:25:530:25:57

The allegations are that that is being turned on

0:25:570:26:01

and off to restrict or stop supply to the cottages further on.

0:26:010:26:06

That's the allegation.

0:26:060:26:08

It's not in my interest to cut my own business off

0:26:080:26:11

-with the water supply.

-Would you... Would you replace that?

0:26:110:26:14

Would you have that taken out?

0:26:140:26:17

And just a pipe, you know, just a supply going...

0:26:170:26:19

I don't mind whether that's there or not.

0:26:190:26:22

There's no evidence that Gaynor has done anything wrong

0:26:230:26:27

but she agrees to have the valve replaced with one

0:26:270:26:30

that has a larger capacity and that can't be switched on or off.

0:26:300:26:34

With this, the plumber makes sure the current valve is fully open

0:26:340:26:38

so Khush can test the supply in Gill's house.

0:26:380:26:42

I'll go next door.

0:26:420:26:44

In Gill's absence, neighbour Mike Savage is keen to hear

0:26:440:26:46

the plumber's professional opinion.

0:26:460:26:49

That ball valve that you have turned on or off this morning,

0:26:490:26:53

is that fit for purpose?

0:26:530:26:56

-Not for underground.

-Thank you. Right.

-Those are isolating valves.

0:26:570:27:01

Those are meant for WCs and sinks and taps. For maintenance.

0:27:020:27:06

That's restricting the supply to the premises.

0:27:070:27:10

That's on, that's off, yeah?

0:27:100:27:12

Testing the current supply will help confirm

0:27:120:27:15

whether a large valve will solve the issue.

0:27:150:27:18

OK, that's with the valve fully open

0:27:180:27:20

but that's the sort of supply you're getting here.

0:27:200:27:24

-RADIO:

-'You're getting it now, are you?'

0:27:240:27:26

Yeah, it's just trickling through.

0:27:260:27:29

The pressure is low but the water flow is constant,

0:27:290:27:33

which confirms the plumber's opinion that the current valve is too small.

0:27:330:27:37

But there's no proof that the valve was being deliberately

0:27:370:27:40

-turned on or off.

-The fittings need to be changed.

0:27:400:27:44

You know, you need a supply with the same diameter fitting

0:27:450:27:48

that doesn't restrict any of the flow in any way.

0:27:480:27:51

Now, that, as I say,

0:27:510:27:54

is a matter between the people who occupy these properties.

0:27:540:27:58

Ideally, I mean, the supply needs to come from the well or the spring,

0:27:580:28:02

a separate supply that feeds into individual cottages.

0:28:020:28:07

And that is really down to the owner, would you agree?

0:28:070:28:09

Totally agree with you.

0:28:090:28:11

I think the residents will need to get together,

0:28:130:28:15

maybe to look at a larger pipework altogether

0:28:150:28:18

to supply their own cottages.

0:28:180:28:20

To ensure Gaynor changes the valve,

0:28:210:28:23

Khush serves an order giving her 14 days to do the work.

0:28:230:28:27

He will return in a fortnight to check it's been done

0:28:270:28:30

and hopefully see an end to this dispute once and for all.

0:28:300:28:34

Between 2012 and 2013,

0:28:440:28:47

local authorities dealt with over 700,000 incidents of fly tipping.

0:28:470:28:51

The cost of clear-up to us taxpayers was over £36 million.

0:28:510:28:56

Local authorities carried out over 425,000 enforcement actions

0:28:580:29:03

but only 2,200 prosecutions were brought,

0:29:030:29:07

so catching and convicting culprits is not easy.

0:29:070:29:12

Today environmental services officer Mike Robinson has struck lucky.

0:29:120:29:17

Sometimes I get a statement that somebody has been caught fly tipping

0:29:210:29:25

but don't usually get a photograph that supports that

0:29:250:29:30

and certainly not as clear as this one here.

0:29:300:29:33

The photo was sent to Mike by artist Gordon Clegg,

0:29:340:29:37

who saw a man dumping the fireplace on wasteland

0:29:370:29:41

in front of his studio and called the council.

0:29:410:29:43

It was just an ordinary day. I was working on the commission.

0:29:430:29:46

I just looked out of the window

0:29:460:29:49

and saw a builder's van drive onto the ground opposite.

0:29:490:29:52

Well, he just parked the damn thing right in front,

0:29:520:29:55

dropped the side down and began to unload it on the floor.

0:29:550:30:00

I was just aghast because it was broad daylight.

0:30:000:30:03

It was two o'clock in the afternoon.

0:30:030:30:05

I just grabbed my camera, I just took four shots of it

0:30:050:30:07

and I thought, "Right, take this to the council.

0:30:070:30:11

"Let them deal with it cos they can't get away with it."

0:30:110:30:13

Fly tippers can be fined up to £50,000 and in serious cases

0:30:150:30:19

face a prison sentence.

0:30:190:30:21

But on their own, Mike's photos aren't enough to bring a prosecution

0:30:210:30:25

so he needs to meet Gordon and fellow artist Chris

0:30:250:30:28

to get more evidence.

0:30:280:30:30

-Hello. Gordon.

-Pleased to meet you. Mike.

0:30:300:30:33

-Hiya.

-We have met before, haven't we? About a year ago, wasn't it?

0:30:330:30:38

We were looking out the window here and then it was all happening again.

0:30:380:30:42

I said to Gordon, can you take a picture of this guy?

0:30:420:30:44

-It was just by chance you seen him.

-We're always here, me and him.

0:30:440:30:49

-Every day.

-And I'm directly below.

0:30:490:30:52

-Right.

-We see this all the time.

-Blatant, yeah.

0:30:520:30:55

Presumably it was just from here.

0:30:550:30:57

He came down here and we said "ey up",

0:30:570:31:00

cos it was a flat backed thing full of junk and everything.

0:31:000:31:04

-Then he just tipped... See where the tarmac is there?

-Yeah, yeah, yeah.

0:31:040:31:07

-Is that the picture that you showed tipping of the white fireplace?

-Yes.

0:31:070:31:10

I've got four of those in a sequence.

0:31:100:31:13

He couldn't have stopped in a better place!

0:31:130:31:15

You had your long lens on, didn't you?

0:31:150:31:17

Well, I hope the council catch him

0:31:170:31:19

and he's fined just so that he won't do it again.

0:31:190:31:23

Armed with a statement, Mike heads back to the council

0:31:240:31:28

to try and trace the offender and put an end to Gordon's distress.

0:31:280:31:32

He did it in broad daylight.

0:31:320:31:34

He had no consideration for anybody in the area.

0:31:360:31:39

He had no consideration for how the land looks, the mill looks

0:31:390:31:43

and my business looks, you know, with all this rubbish outside.

0:31:430:31:48

And it's just not on, really.

0:31:480:31:50

And I hope the council do something about it.

0:31:500:31:53

After residents called the council about a mouse infestation

0:32:030:32:06

plaguing their houses,

0:32:060:32:08

pest control officer Brian Whelan's returned to see if the householders

0:32:080:32:12

-have taken his advice and pest-proofed their homes.

-Hiya.

0:32:120:32:17

-Sorry I'm late.

-All right.

0:32:170:32:19

-How do?

-Hiya.

-Just in time for dinner, am I?

0:32:210:32:24

THEY LAUGH

0:32:240:32:26

-How's it been?

-We had one that got behind the fridge

0:32:260:32:30

so my husband sorted that but apart from that we've had none at all.

0:32:300:32:33

Let's have a look behind the cooker and that.

0:32:330:32:37

-Nothing.

-We've had no... Nothing at all.

0:32:370:32:41

-Maybe I won't. Maybe I will.

-None at all.

0:32:420:32:44

-There's none down there. Nothing there.

-There's none there.

0:32:470:32:50

Fantastic. Superb. Brilliant.

0:32:500:32:53

Right, I will give next-door a knock and see how they are.

0:32:530:32:57

It's good news for this house but have Brian's poison

0:32:570:33:01

and better pest-proofing had the same effect next-door?

0:33:010:33:03

-Bye, now.

-Take care.

-Bye-bye. See you.

0:33:030:33:07

-Hello there. Pest control. Is it OK if I check?

-Come in. Come in.

0:33:100:33:14

-Has everything been all right?

-Fine.

0:33:140:33:16

-Down here was some.

-There is some in the cupboard.

0:33:160:33:20

-I put them down.

-No droppings, is there?

0:33:200:33:22

-No fresh droppings.

-No, I haven't seen any.

0:33:220:33:24

As far as I know the three houses here haven't seen any.

0:33:240:33:27

-I've not heard anything from the other end.

-Keep my number.

0:33:270:33:31

You've got my number. Keep my number.

0:33:310:33:33

Give me a bell if you need anything again.

0:33:330:33:35

We'll pop round straightaway and sort it out. OK. Thanks very much.

0:33:350:33:38

-Thanks very much. It's been great.

-Superb.

0:33:380:33:40

The council came out quickly

0:33:400:33:43

so we didn't have any problem that way

0:33:430:33:45

and we've had a follow-up checkup and we can contact them any time

0:33:450:33:50

we need to if we have any other problems so we are very pleased.

0:33:500:33:55

All right. Bye, now.

0:33:550:33:58

It's great news for the residents

0:33:580:33:59

and a good job done by their new-found hero, Brian.

0:33:590:34:03

It's nice. I mean, that's the part about the job,

0:34:030:34:05

when you do a job and get an end result and people see it

0:34:050:34:09

and know it and they're dead happy about it, that's fantastic.

0:34:090:34:12

I love helping people. I love people saying,

0:34:120:34:15

"Brilliant, nice one. Well done."

0:34:150:34:17

And it is nice, whether they're old or young, it doesn't make any odds.

0:34:170:34:20

While the country's council officers are on the road

0:34:270:34:30

helping their residents,

0:34:300:34:32

council call centres across the UK are being kept busy by thousands

0:34:320:34:36

-of others looking for help.

-Good morning. Customer services.

0:34:360:34:39

-How can I help?

-Some call more often than others.

0:34:390:34:42

We do get what we call regular callers on a lot of the time.

0:34:420:34:47

They can be quite humorous and you get to know people,

0:34:470:34:49

you know them by their names.

0:34:490:34:51

They're always very chatty and they know you on first name terms.

0:34:510:34:55

Good afternoon.

0:34:550:34:56

They see their role as helping the council do a better job.

0:34:560:34:59

They physically walk round the borough, ring us up and say,

0:34:590:35:02

"There's a pothole on the street.

0:35:020:35:05

"There's dog fouling in this area. I've noticed some bin liners..."

0:35:050:35:08

And they make a sort of industry out of walking round

0:35:080:35:11

but they are actually doing us a favour

0:35:110:35:13

cos some people just walk past it and ignore it.

0:35:130:35:15

Welcome to Tameside Council. Karen speaking. How can I help?

0:35:150:35:18

That's the thing that I like about the job, really.

0:35:180:35:21

You never know what's on the end of the phone.

0:35:210:35:23

Somebody could be shouting because of various reasons or you get

0:35:230:35:26

someone who is, "Sorry for contacting you. I do apologise."

0:35:260:35:30

You know, at the end of the day we are there to help the public

0:35:300:35:34

and we always say don't hesitate to contact us.

0:35:340:35:37

That's what we are here for at the end of the day.

0:35:370:35:39

Back on the streets Syed is returning to see Fay Parker,

0:35:460:35:50

who called the council about her neighbour's leaking guttering and damp in her bedroom.

0:35:500:35:55

After an initial inspection,

0:35:550:35:58

Syed called the landlord to insist the damaged gutter was replaced.

0:35:580:36:01

Today he's back to see if the work has been carried out.

0:36:010:36:05

The landlord of this property was meant to replace the guttering,

0:36:050:36:09

which he has done, and I'm really pleased with that.

0:36:090:36:12

Some cases the landlord will ignore the plea from the tenant

0:36:120:36:15

or the neighbouring properties

0:36:150:36:17

but when they get in touch with the council,

0:36:170:36:20

in most cases we can resolve the problem without great difficulties.

0:36:200:36:23

Syed also checks that Fay is happy about the work that's been done.

0:36:260:36:31

It looks OK, doesn't it? Are you pleased with that?

0:36:310:36:34

Well, not before time, I must admit but, yes, I am pleased it's done.

0:36:340:36:38

-It's done.

-Yes. I caught him a few days after he would have got

0:36:380:36:43

the letter from you and I said to him,

0:36:430:36:45

"Are you doing those gutters?"

0:36:450:36:48

And he said, "I'm doing front and back." I said, "Good."

0:36:480:36:51

-And I have to say thank you very much.

-Not at all.

0:36:510:36:54

-Thank you very much.

-And I hope I never see you again!

0:36:540:36:58

In a nice way, yes. All the best.

0:36:580:37:01

-Yes. Thanks very much.

-Take care. Thanks a lot.

0:37:010:37:05

-Thank you. See you.

-Bye-bye.

0:37:050:37:07

It's all in a day's work for this local hero.

0:37:070:37:10

I get a buzz out of what I do and I like to help people, you know.

0:37:120:37:16

It's not a cliche.

0:37:170:37:19

I genuinely love to help and I enjoy my, you know, area of work.

0:37:190:37:26

Back at council HQ, enforcement officer Mike

0:37:350:37:38

has tracked down the man caught fly tipping on camera.

0:37:380:37:41

He has used the man's vehicle registration to find his address and

0:37:420:37:46

has invited him in for an interview with his colleague, Louise Ashton.

0:37:460:37:50

We are here today to conduct an interview under caution

0:37:520:37:55

with a gentleman that is suspected of being involved in a fly tipping

0:37:550:37:58

incident in the Mossley area.

0:37:580:38:01

We've got evidence we want to put to him,

0:38:010:38:04

photographs we want to show him and really

0:38:040:38:06

basically it is his opportunity to give his version of events.

0:38:060:38:10

The man admits to dumping the fireplace

0:38:110:38:14

but has an unusual explanation.

0:38:140:38:16

He claims that he went on to that land a couple of days previous

0:38:160:38:21

and found that fireplace,

0:38:210:38:24

took it to his daughter's house to use as a fire surround at her house

0:38:240:38:28

and she didn't approve.

0:38:280:38:30

She didn't like it and told him to put it back where he got it from

0:38:300:38:33

so a couple of days later, he did.

0:38:330:38:36

And what...the photographs we've got

0:38:360:38:38

are him putting it back where he found it.

0:38:380:38:41

So, but we have pointed out to him that...tough.

0:38:410:38:46

Tough! You've took responsibility for it.

0:38:460:38:48

On this occasion, Louise and Mike decide to caution the fly tipper

0:38:490:38:53

but if he is caught again, he could face the full force of the law.

0:38:530:38:57

While some residents' calls to the council have been resolved,

0:39:100:39:13

Khush Ahmed is returning to Thorncliffe Hall Farm,

0:39:130:39:16

where tensions between neighbours are still running high.

0:39:160:39:20

Gill Cooper shares a water supply with her next-door neighbour

0:39:200:39:24

and has called the council because the flow from her taps is intermittent.

0:39:240:39:29

When you are living in those 15 minute segments of, you know,

0:39:300:39:34

there's no water or you're in the shower and the water runs out,

0:39:340:39:37

it is a real frustration.

0:39:370:39:39

Two weeks ago, Khush served Gill's neighbour Gaynor

0:39:390:39:42

with a notice to change the valve in her yard

0:39:420:39:45

for a larger one that could not be turned on or off.

0:39:450:39:48

But the deadline has passed and the work hasn't been carried out.

0:39:490:39:53

So with the help of a local plumber, the council are removing

0:39:530:39:56

the valve and will charge Gaynor for the job later.

0:39:560:39:59

What we are doing is removing that stop tap

0:39:590:40:02

and just connecting a free-flowing pipe. So that there is...

0:40:020:40:06

I mean, there's allegations that's being switched on and off,

0:40:060:40:09

which restricts supply to these two cottages.

0:40:090:40:13

So, once that's removed and we've got a free-flowing pipe,

0:40:150:40:19

there's no way that the water can be restricted or disrupted, really.

0:40:190:40:22

While the plumber gets to work,

0:40:230:40:26

Khush chats to Gill and her neighbour, Mike,

0:40:260:40:28

who simply want a steady flow of water to their homes.

0:40:280:40:31

If that happens today, Khush, I think that's all,

0:40:310:40:34

on this issue, we've ever wanted.

0:40:340:40:36

I can't tell you how good it will feel to just get water upstairs.

0:40:360:40:40

-So we'll keep our fingers crossed, then, for rest of the day.

-Yeah.

0:40:400:40:44

With the valve in question finally removed, it's time to test

0:40:460:40:49

the supply to see if the flow is now steady rather than intermittent.

0:40:490:40:53

WATER TRICKLES

0:40:590:41:01

It's been an anxious wait and the pressure is low but finally,

0:41:010:41:06

a constant flow of water has been restored.

0:41:060:41:09

The main thing for me

0:41:090:41:11

is we've got some water coming into that again now.

0:41:110:41:14

That's my main issue is we've got water there

0:41:140:41:17

where we didn't have before.

0:41:170:41:19

I think it's a massive relief as far as we are concerned.

0:41:190:41:23

I mean, cos what we know now is that tap has been removed

0:41:230:41:28

and there is nothing restricting it now that's coming this way

0:41:280:41:31

and I think that's all we've ever asked for.

0:41:310:41:34

Gill and Mike will have to wait for the pressure to build up

0:41:340:41:37

before the water supply is back to its best

0:41:370:41:40

but this is a successful end to a difficult dispute.

0:41:400:41:43

I feel very happy today.

0:41:440:41:46

I mean, I feel quite satisfied that the job

0:41:460:41:49

that we came to do has been done.

0:41:490:41:51

Once it's back to normal there will be a big candlelit bath, I think.

0:41:510:41:55

Once again, the country's local councils

0:42:000:42:03

and their heroic officers have been working hard for their residents.

0:42:030:42:06

They've helped a whole street rid their homes of mice.

0:42:060:42:10

I've killed four up to now. Two big ones and two small ones.

0:42:100:42:14

They stopped the flow of faulty gutters.

0:42:140:42:17

-Yes, I am pleased it's done.

-It's done.

0:42:170:42:20

Responded when residents called

0:42:200:42:22

about someone creating a blot on their landscape.

0:42:220:42:25

He had no consideration for anybody in the area.

0:42:260:42:29

They had no consideration for how the land looks,

0:42:290:42:31

the mill looks, you know, with all this rubbish outside.

0:42:310:42:35

And put an end to a dispute about water that was far from neighbourly.

0:42:350:42:40

So, that's with the valve fully open

0:42:400:42:43

but that's the sort of supply you are getting here.

0:42:430:42:46

And most importantly, they dedicated themselves to their residents

0:42:460:42:50

when they called the council.

0:42:500:42:53

When you resolve a situation for an individual, they do appreciate that.

0:42:530:42:58

I think the public are a lot more aware of what we do

0:42:580:43:02

and the type of work that we can respond to.

0:43:020:43:06

Local council officers intervene when tensions run high between neighbours at war over a water supply, help a whole street when their houses are overrun by mice, and respond when artists call to complain about a fly-tipper creating a blot on their landscape.


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