This is a little known part of the Act and it covers such matters as giving the local authority statutory rights of entry to investigate nuisances etc. We understand that it is paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 which gives the Secretary of State for the Environment [SoS] powers to act when local authorities are in default of their duties; sub-para 4(1) sets out the scope of reference for paragraph 4, namely the local authority's duty under Section 79 to detect statutory nuisances. sub-para 4(2) of Schedule 3 states:
"If the Secretary of State is satisfied that any local authority has failed, in any respect, to discharge the function to which this paragraph applies which it ought to have discharged, he may make an order declaring the authority to be in default."
Section 79 of The Act states that:
" ... it shall be the duty of every local authority to cause its area to be inspected from time to time to detect any statutory nuisance which ought to be dealt with under section 80 below and, where a complaint of statutory nuisance is made to it by a person living within its area, to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to investigate the complaint."
Therefore the SoS’s powers under Schedule 3 appear to cover a failure of the local authority EITHER:
The most effective way of initiating the Secretary of State’s investigation may be to send full details of the complaint to your local MP with the specific request that he take the matter up directly with the Secretary of State, who if satisfied ".. may make an order declaring the authority to be in default."
Please note that this procedure does not appear to cover circumstances when the local authority has properly investigated but reached a "perverse" decision, which is perhaps why we understand that there have only been a handful invocations of this procedure, and that none have been successful.