Thursday, 25 February 2010

Labour failing to use powers that would help keep parks clean

A few weeks ago I blogged about my support for the campaign led by local resident Tom Lendrum to get Labour-run Reading Borough Council to take action to deal with the problem of dog fouling - a major issue for residents living in Whitley and I have no doubt, other parts of Reading. I tabled a question to this week's full Council meeting on this issue -

"What is the Council doing to tackle the problem of dog fouling in the Borough, and how many fixed penalty notices have been issued for this offence by ward?" Note: my ward colleague Cllr Kirsten Bayes tabled the same question around the same time last year.

In order to prosecute people who allow their dogs to foul public places councils must first introduce 'Dog Control Orders'. DCOs were introduced in 2005 via the Clean Neighbourhod and Environment Act. Fixed penalty notices can then be issued in areas covered by these orders such as public parks and roads. The Labour Lead Member for the Environment, Cllr Paul Gittings confirmed in his written response to my question that since the Act came into force five years ago Labour-run Reading Borough Council has not introduced a single Dog Control Order anywhere in the Borough and as a result no fixed penalty issues have been issued for dog fouling. Cllr Gittings told me that 'dog owners are encouraged to clear up dog waste' via poop scoop signs which have been put up on lampposts to raise awareness. Encouragement is clearly not working as there is no threat of enforcement if they don't. It's pretty obvious you need to use a carrot and stick approach!
The written answer from Cllr Gittings says that the previous Dogs [Fouling of Land] Act 1996 (which made it an offence for persons who fail to clear up after their dog and gave RBC the power to issue fines of £25) but the administration didn't issue any due to 'health and safety concerns for officers and the requirement to return any monies collected to the Department of the Environment'?! This is ironic given the health hazard dog waste poses the public.
As I pointed out in my previous post on this issue dog fouling was recently identified in a survey carried out by RBC as the number one issue for residents living in South Reading. And it's not the first time the Lib Dems have raised it! It's time Labour politicians in Reading started taking this issue seriously. I have requested that the Environment Scrutiny Panel investigates this issue at the next available opportunity.I hope it will recommend to the administration of RBC that action is taken soon to introduce DCOs and go further towards making our pavements and parks more pleasant places for local people to use.

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