Research by the Liberal Democrats has shown that local councillors are ignoring the concerns of local people. Local councillors said they would deal with dog fouling yet they have failed to do anything to address the issue despite ongoing complaints.
Local residents have been telling Sutton Coldfield Liberal Democrats that dog fouling continues to be a problem in the area. Dog faeces are being left on pavements, footpaths, outside people's homes and schools. Local councillors said in their local election leaflets that they were addressing the problem. However, Freedom of Information requests have shown that local councillors in the Town, and City, Council have not once spoken about this issue in any formal way. Jenny Wilkinson, spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield Liberal Democrats, said "This is not just a nuisance, it is a health risk, and people's concerns should be taken seriously".
Recent work has been carried out in an attempt to deter dog owners from leaving dog faeces on the floor. This has consisted of stickers on lampposts and paint on the floor informing people of the maximum fine they can receive. Local residents have found out that this work has been carried out by the City Council's Environment Health team as a response to complaints from people in the area. Jenny Wilkinson says "It is unacceptable for the Conservatives, nationally, to impose massive spending cuts on the City Council, making it hard for them to provide the services we need, while locally they collect our taxes and fail to spend them". Having not spent the money the Town Council has collected from residents in every year it has been in existence, it has a large surplus that could easily be spent on addressing the long-term and ongoing concerns of local people.
Jenny Wilkinson says "Addressing a problem requires three steps. The first is to understand it. The second to consider the pros and cons of the different options that could address it. And the third is to evaluate any plans that have been implemented". A Freedom of Information request to Sutton Coldfield Town Council has identified that this issue has never been discussed by the Council and it was suggested that the enquirer try contacting Birmingham City Council, as they are responsible for public highways. A Freedom of Information request to Birmingham City Council has shown that this issue has never been discussed by city councillors either. This issue is, therefore, not well understood, the options have not been considered, and the only thing we can evaluate is the Town Council's inaction.
This issue shows real problems at the heart of our local government. Jenny Wilkinson says "We need to see much better cooperation, information sharing, and coordination between the Town and City Councils. Local councillors need to take local people's concerns seriously and the Council needs to be more responsible with our money by spending it on what we need rather than saving it without a plan to spend it". As the Town Council has the resources to address this issue, Sutton Coldfield Liberal Democrats have written to the leader of Sutton Council Town Council with an outline of how they would spend the money to deal with the health risk of dog fouling. These plans involve:
- The Practical: The Liberal Democrats would install bins for dog faeces, providing a place for people to put it. This means they do not have to carry it around in their pocket, which puts some off picking it up. It also serves as a reminder and encourages people to pick it up and put it in the bins. This is a well-used service in many Councils and would help some dog owners.
- The Social: Changing behaviour requires social pressure, and a public campaign in and around Sutton Coldfield to highlight the issue would start to apply pressure on dog owners. We would give people ideas of what they can do to deal with it, getting everyone involved. We would use a technique used in others areas where the faeces have been spray painted so people can see them, reminding people of the problem. Some Councils have reported a 70% reduction in dog fouling with such techniques.
- The Deterrent: We would employ environmental wardens with part of their remit being to police the issue. Again, this is a solution used by Councils around the country.
Together, these would significantly address this problem while being more cost effective than current plans. As Jenny Wilkinson says "The Liberal Democrats have effective and practical ideas to address the problems we face in Sutton Coldfield and I urge those who have been elected to start taking our concerns seriously".