Members were asked to consider the Panels Draft Final Report on its findings resulting from its scrutiny into Dog Fouling. It was confirmed that, following the Panels approval, the Final Report would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for consideration.
The report highlighted that the Panel had considered dog fouling in Middlesbrough to have worsened in recent years. Subsequently, the Panel sought to ascertain the current position, particularly in light of the Councils current budget position, and investigated the topic over the course of three Panel meetings held between 11 February and 15 April 2013. The Panel was provided with a range of evidence from various Council Officers and Councillors in response to the agreed terms of reference for the scrutiny investigation, as follows:-
a) To examine the current position regarding dog fouling in Middlesbrough, particularly the current scale of the problem.
b) To consider available resources and staffing, particularly in light of recent Council budget reductions.
c) To examine how the issue can be best addressed, including enforcement and education.
The Officers involved in the provision of evidence to the Panel had each been provided with a copy of the Draft Final Report for comment; no specific comments had been received.
Following the Panels previous meeting, P Robertson, Environmental Protection Manager, had provided a breakdown of dog fouling reports, on a ward by ward basis, for the period 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, taken from the Councils CRM system. This information was circulated to those present. It was highlighted that 101 reports were categorised as unspecified and it was explained that this was where fouling was reported as being on grassed areas, for example, and the system was unable to attribute a specific ward to the complaint.
The Scrutiny Support Officer also circulated supplementary information in relation to a current Keep Britain Tidy campaign to promote the message that there is no such thing as a dog poo fairy. The message was aimed at tackling the increasing problem of people failing to dispose of their bags after cleaning up after their dogs.
Research showed that around 70% of local authorities had some level of problem with this issue. The campaign featured eye-catching posters and bin stickers that were available free of charge and it was suggested that the Council or Community Councils might wish to make use of the free resources and Members might wish to make a recommendation to that effect.
It was highlighted to the Panel that one of the slogans used on the campaign was bag that poo, any bin will do. Subsequently, the Scrutiny Support Officer had contacted K Garland, Neighbourhood and Area Care Manager, to ascertain whether this was an acceptable message to promote within Middlesbrough. The Service Manager had confirmed that there was no issue with disposing of dog waste in normal litter bins, providing it was properly bagged and tied, as dog bins and litter bins were emptied and disposed of in the same way. He also indicated that consideration was being given to a move towards dual use bins, ie half litter, half dog waste, in a more neutral colour.
The Scrutiny Support Officer circulated a list of possible conclusions and recommendations, drawn up prior to the meeting in conjunction with the Chair and Vice Chair, for consideration and comment. It was highlighted that number 3), last line should say 2016 not 2015.
Panel Members supported the proposed recommendations and highlighted the following:-
The Panel supported the continuation of a light touch approach to enforcement and wished to include this as a recommendation.
In relation to recommendation 6), wording be added to state
appropriately trained operational Council staff to encourage good behaviour and assist in enforcement action, be explored.
AGREED as follows:-
1. That the amended report be circulated to all Panel Members, with an opportunity to submit final comments.
2. That the Scrutiny Support Officer, in conjunction with the Chair, be given authority to finalise the Final Report and that the report be submitted to the next available meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Board.
3. That the conclusions, as circulated at the meeting, be incorporated into the report, with the following amendment to conclusion 5) and the additional of the following conclusion 6):-
5) Enforcement action in respect of dog fouling was time consuming and resource intensive, particularly in terms of witnessing offences and obtaining evidence. A light touch approach was currently taken in respect of enforcement action, with fixed penalties/prosecution being used for second offences or where people refused to pick up. The Community Protection Service was currently reviewing its enforcement regime, which provided the Environment Scrutiny Panel with an opportunity to comment on future policy. Given the resource-intensive nature of enforcement action, there was also an opportunity to consider whether operational Council staff could be used to assist with enforcement work, or in educating the public in appropriate circumstances.
6) There was an issue with people bagging dog waste but then discarding the bags along footpaths and in green spaces. Investment in dog bins had assisted in addressing this, although there could be problems in finding suitable locations for the bins. These need to be sited sensitively, away from commercial and residential premises. Dual use bins - for both litter and dog waste - could be an appropriate solution.
4. That the following recommendations be incorporated into the report:-
1. That, given the additional funding recently made available to Middlesbrough Council to undertake the local Public Health function, and the links between dog fouling and public health, a request be made for some of the funding to be directed towards addressing dog fouling issues.
2. That, following and assessment to determine suitable areas, the Green Dog Walker Scheme be extended from Hemlington to other areas of Middlesbrough.
3. That the issue of dog fouling and the Councils associated budget/staffing problems be highlighted to all Community Councils. Community Councils should be requested to consider:-
a) Purchasing poop scoops (which are the single most cost-effective item to address dog fouling) for use by local residents.
b) Purchasing litter/dog bins and signage for use in appropriate areas.
c) Promoting involvement in the Green Dog Walker Scheme.
d) Making use of free resources (such as Dog Fouling Campaign posters and stickers) available from Keep Britain Tidy.
4. That action be continued to reduce the number of stray dogs in Middlesbrough. Hotspot areas should be identified and resources concentrated on those areas. Microchipping schemes should continue to be promoted/undertaken as resources permit.
5. That, wherever possible, and in appropriate areas, any new or replacement litter bins be dual use; ie suitable for both litter and dog waste.
6. That the possibility of using appropriately trained operational Council staff to encourage good behaviour and assist in enforcement action, such as the issuing of fixed penalty notices for dog fouling, be investigated.
7. That the Councils current light touch approach in relation to dog fouling enforcement (ie the use of fixed penalties/prosecutions for second offences or where people refused to pick up) be continued.