Friday, 18 December 2009

You only need a plastic bag!

Yes, you...if you own a dog and let it crap on Thompson Street West in Darlington. The main walking route to Harrowgate Hill Primary must be one of the worst stretches of road in town for dog muck and litter. Earlier this week I, along with my fellow North Road ward councillors, received an anguished email from a resident of Leyburn Road, sent on behalf of many of the parents, asking us to get something done about the appalling state of the pavements in Thompson Street West.

This is an age-old problem here, though previous attempts to solve it were undermined by a former Independent Councillor for the ward, who lived in that street and who refused to accept that there was any such problem. Indeed, much like the current Labour leadership in the town accuses me of being "a disgrace" for bringing to Council's attention that there are issues which need addressing in the town, so the Independent Councillor accused his Lib Dem colleagues of "talking down" the ward by trying to get additional cleaning resources here.

At last, though, we seem to be getting some action here. My Labour opponent for the Darlington Constituency, Jenny Chapman, (a Labour Party colleague of the complainent's husband) also got involved and together we got Street Scene on the job. They counted thirteen piles of dog muck along the short stretch from North Road to Harrowgate Hill School! The mess was cleared up and washed down the same day.

Now we have to work with the environmental wardens to start educating and punishing those responsible. It really beggars belief that there are so many people who are just so lazy and anti-social that they can't be bothered just to take an old plastic bag with them to clean up after their dogs.

All this takes place right outside people's houses. In our Christmas Focus hitting the streets next week we have asked local residents to keep a look out and report any miscreants. It is really quite disgusting and no parent, pushing a pushchair and walking with young kids to school, should have to cope with this muck on our pavements.

5 comments:

Aeres said...

My Town Crier this month informed me that one individual was fined £75 for dog fouling.

It also told me that 3 people were fined £100, £120 and £150 for putting their rubbish out on the wrong day of the week.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure how putting rubbish out on the wrong day be considered the more heinous crime of the two?

james said...

As the song goes, it aint what you do its the way that you do it.

Seems like a good approach to suggest that there's increased reporting of environmental crimes like allowing dogs to foul the pavement. No one could knock you for that, Mike.

Another constructive way of dealing with this problem would be a good idea to have ward meetings between members of the public and environmental wardens following the model of PACT meetings where police meet with the public to work out priorities.

Mike Barker said...

Hi Aeres,

The level of these fines is higher than that set by the Council's Fixed Penalty notices, which indicates that they were enforced by the Magistrates.

It is the case, though, that the Government sets maximum penalties for littering at a higher level than for dog fouling, and the Council's Fixed Penalty levels and the Magistrates' fines both reflect this.

There are two seperate offences here which are dealt with by two different pieces of legislation. The Council deals with dog fouling under the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 as we do not have any dog control orders in place yet.

Under this piece of legislation if a person is prosecuted then the maximum penalty is a level 3 fine of £1,000.00.

We deal with the littering offence under s87 Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the maximum penalty for this offence is a level 4 fine of £2,500.00. The level of these maximum fines are set by Parliament.

Darlington Borough Council offer fixed penalty notices for both of these offences. The dog fouling fixed penalty notice is set at £50.00 and the littering at £75.00.
Local Authorities can specify the amount of the fixed penalty for some offences but if they do not then there is a default figure set out in The Environmental Offences (Fixed Penalties) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2006. These regulations also specify what range the Local Authority must set the fixed penalty at for example 'not less than £50 but not more than £80.00'. People have to accept the fixed penalty notice if they do not then we prosecute.

When we take people to court it is then up to the Magistrates what level of fine the Defendant is given bearing in mind the maximum fines applicable to each offence. The Magistrates listen to all the evidence, the circumstances of the case, any previous convictions and the finances of the Defendant are all taken into account when they decide the level of fine. This accounts for the different levels of fines that the Magistrates award.

I have to agree with you, Aeres. To me, dog fouling is a worse offence than putting rubbish out a day early. But it is Parliament which has determined that littering in general is an offence worthy of a higher penalty than dog fouling.

Mike Barker said...

James,

The environmental wardens have been to meetings of the North Road Community Partnership and probably to others around the town on several occasions. This is not a regular event, though, in the way that PACT meetings are.

Councillors do have direct contact with the wardens, though, and can pass on any problems on behalf of residents.

Generally speaking, environmental offences need to be dealt with promptly and holding monthly meetings would probably not improve the service - and they would take the wardens off the streets.

I think we get a pretty good response from them as things are. Also, I don't think the environmental wardens need the PR benefits that the police get from PACT.

Aeres said...

Interesting stuff as always Mike. Thanks for taking the time to respond.