Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Environment Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Date:
Monday 11 February 2013
Time:
2:00 p.m.
Place:
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor R Kerr (Chair), Councillor G B Clark (Vice Chair), Councillor R Brady, Councillor M Saunders.
Invitees:
Councillor J Brunton - Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Board.
Officers:
A Crawford, J Dixon, K Larkin, A Mace and G Robinson.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor J G Cole, Councillor C Hobson, Councillor P Sharrocks.
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
12/41 MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING OF THE ENVIRONMENT SCRUTINY PANEL HELD ON 14 JANUARY 2013.

The Minutes of the Environment Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 14 January 2013 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

12/42 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF NEW SCRUTINY TOPIC - DOG FOULING.

The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a covering report to provide the Panel with background information in relation to the new scrutiny topic of dog fouling, agreed as part of the Panel’s work programme at its meeting on 11 June 2012.

 

It had been intended that P Robertson, Environmental Protection Manager, would be in attendance at the meeting to provide detailed information on various aspects of the topic, but unfortunately he was unable to attend due to illness. Therefore, A Mace, Operations Manager Area Care, G Robinson, Area Care and K Larkin, Environmental Protection Officer, were in attendance at the meeting to assist with providing an overview of the subject.

 

A Mace, Operations Manager, Area Care, provided Members with a copy of figures showing area trends for dog fouling across the town for 2010 and 2011/12. Despite public perception indicating that dog fouling had worsened, the most recent figures for fouling, as at January 2013, showed that there had been a slight decrease overall, for areas surveyed, from 3.7% to 3.1%. The percentage figures were based on the BVPI scoring system whereby the inspection team carried out inspections of randomly selected areas right across the town on a twice yearly basis.

 

It was highlighted that a slight increase had been noted in dog fouling in alley-gated areas as some irresponsible owners let dogs out into the alley. The Operations Manager stated that he would obtain information for the Panel in relation to the numbers of reports made by members of the public to the Contact Centre (recorded on the CRM system) in relation to dog fouling. Comparative information would be provided from the 2011, 2012 and the year to date.
 

Reference was made to Dog Control Orders and it was confirmed that Middlesbrough currently had three Dog Control Order areas - all Council owned cemeteries and crematorium, Central Gardens (around Mima), and Albert Park. Failure to remove dog dirt was an offence in all of these designated areas, but Dog Control Orders were used to enforce other offences as well. However, it was understood that the Government had recently announced plans to potentially scrap the introduction of new Dog Control Orders and further information and clarification was awaited. Members were advised that it was an offence for any person in charge of a dog to fail to clean up dog waste from designated land under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996.
 

The Scrutiny Support Officer circulated several articles extracted from the BBC’s news website whilst researching the topic, illustrating various approaches taken to dog fouling by several authorities in the UK, including:-

  • Private security firms being employed to enforce against dog fouling.
  • Potential introduction of DNA testing for dogs.
  • Introduction of dog fouling smartphone app.

The Panel was advised of the Green Dog Walker Scheme which was being piloted at Hemlington Lake as part of a drive to reduce dog fouling in that area. The scheme was launched in June 2012 and it was hoped that it would be extended to other areas of the town if successful. The scheme was run by local Councillors and volunteers and was intended to be an informal approach to changing attitudes about dog fouling. The idea had originated in Falkirk, Scotland where the scheme had been in operation for several years and was now spreading to other areas.
 

Participants in the scheme signed a pledge to always clean up after their dog and to encourage other dog walkers to do the same. Participants were asked to wear a green dog walker armband when walking their dog and to also carry extra bags and poop scoops for distribution to other dog walkers if requested. A number of dog walkers had already signed up to the scheme.

 

During discussion, the following issues were raised:-

 

  • The Panel questioned what the current position was with regards to staffing levels and how that had been affected by budget reductions.
  • In terms of Area Care, the Operations Manager advised that Area Care had lost 37 employees, including two managers, since 2010, through voluntary and compulsory redundancies. The service currently employed a totally of 106 staff. The impact on service delivery was that the service made every attempt to maintain service standards, however, the streets were not quite as clean as they were one year ago.
  • In terms of Community Protection, the number of dog wardens had reduced from two to one and the vacant post was now covered on a rota basis by three enforcement officers and the animal licensing officer.
  • In response to a query, Members were advised that there had been very few fines issued over the last few years as the Council no longer had a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to dog fouling. If an enforcement officer observed a dog owner not to clean up after their dog, they would be afforded the opportunity of doing so, however, a fine would be issued on the second occasion, in line with current policy.
  • It was confirmed that there was a mechanism to report dog fouling on the Council’s website and via the Council’s Facebook page, in addition to reporting by telephone through the Council’s Contact Centre.
  • In relation to stray dogs, the Panel was advised that there had been a slight increase in the number of stray dogs in the town last year, however, the current year’s figures were slightly reduced from last year. It was also reported that the Council no longer had the capacity to take possession of surrendered dogs and would refer owners to animal charities.

 The Chair thanked the officers for attending and for the information provided.

 

AGREED as follows:-

 

1. That information regarding the number of complaints received via the CRM system in relation to dog fouling, be circulated to Panel Members.

 

2. That the Environmental Protection Manager be invited to a future Panel meeting, when able to attend, to provide further information regarding the current scrutiny topic.
 

12/43 OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY BOARD UPDATE.

The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 8 January 2013, namely:-

 

  • Attendance of Executive Members at the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
  • Attendance of the Mayor.
  • Executive Feedback on Scrutiny Reports.
  • Neighbourhood Watch - Final Report of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel.
  • Scrutiny Panel Progress Reports.

 AGREED that the information contained within the report be noted.
 

12/44 DATE AND TIME OF NEXT MEETING - MONDAY, 4 MARCH 2013.

 
12/45 ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Environmental Services

 

At the request of the Chair, the Scrutiny Support Officer circulated a list of the main environmental services provided by the Council. In light of the current financial climate and pressures placed on services provided by the Council, it was acknowledged that it was not realistic to expect current standards and service promises to be maintained in some areas. As part of the process, the Executive Member for Environment - Neighbourhoods and Communities, had requested input from the Panel in relation to identifying potential priorities in terms of environmental services delivered in the town.

 

The Chair requested that all Members of the Panel give consideration to the list and identify 10 priorities, taking into account:-

 

1. How many people would be affected by that service being cut.
2. What the lasting affects of cutting that service would be, eg in terms of health, etc.
3. The annual financial savings it would bring.

 

AGREED that the list of environmental services provided by the Council be circulated to all Members of the Environment Scrutiny Panel and that all Members identify 10 priorities from the list to provide direction to the Executive Member.
 

Powered by E-GENDA from Associated Knowledge Systems Ltd