Only £100 in fines collected for dog fouling offences since council's crackdown began
QUESTIONS are being asked about the council's "zero tolerance" approach to dog fouling after just £100 was collected in fines in the eight months since the policy was reintroduced.
The figure – which equates to two fixed penalty notices – has appalled Liberal Democrat councillors who called for the crackdown back in February. They say it is proof that the Labour administration is not taking the issue seriously.
However, North East Lincolnshire Council leader Chris Shaw said the lack of fines being issued was down to members of the public not reporting incidents of dog fouling.
He said: "We have a zero tolerance policy and when we catch people, we fine them. But we need residents to report those who are responsible. We cannot have enforcement officers standing on every street corner 24/7."
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As reported, the "zero tolerance" policy towards littering and dog fouling was reintroduced in April after being included as an amendment to the authority's 2012-13 budget.
A "zero-tolerance" policy had been pursued by the ruling Liberal Democrat administration, but this was relaxed when Labour took control in 2011.
Proposed again by the Lib-Dems in February, the amendment limited staff cuts to the council's Community Pride service to eight-and-a-half full-time posts rather than ten.
It was agreed that the resulting £45,000 shortfall in the budget would be met by £20,000 being cut from ward funding and the £25,000 from extra income from fixed penalty notices resulting from the crackdown.
Speaking at February's budget-setting meeting, Liberal Democrat group leader Andrew De Freitas said that the council had collected just £3,000 in fines in the 2011-12 financial year, compared to £21,000 the previous year.
However, so far this year, just £1,037 has been collected in fines – £937 for littering and £100 for dog fouling.
Councillor De Freitas (Lib Dem, Park) said: "I have noticed that in various parts of the borough dog fouling is very much on the increase, but this council appears to be treating it as a low priority.
"To collect just £100 for dog fouling is ridiculous. That's only a couple of offences. The general public are complaining about this but the council appears to be fairly relaxed about it. I think that is a backward step.
"Dog fouling is not good for the environment and it is very damaging for the image of the area."
Councillor Steve Beasant (Lib Dem, East Marsh) said: "I am absolutely appalled by that figure. The zero tolerance approach has just not materialised. If it had we would be seeing £20,000 to £30,000 in fixed penalty notices.
"At every residents' meeting I go to in the ward, dog fouling is the main issue that comes up time and again, and the second issue is littering and fly tipping.
"People are absolutely fed up to the back teeth with it. They have to walk through it day in, day out and they want some action from this council, not just mealy-mouthed words from Councillor Shaw and his colleagues."
Councillor Shaw (Lab, Sidney Sussex) said:"Dog fouling is still an issue and we are doing what we can to deal with it, but even if we had hundreds of enforcement officers there would still be dog fouling.
"I think the Lib Dems want enforcement officers standing on every street corner 24/7. It is not going to happen. Every year since 2009 there has been a reduction in the number of enforcement officers. When are opposition members of this council going to understand that their government is cutting budgets for services that are not statutory?"
He added the current approach was less draconian than it had been under the Lib Dems.
"Where members of the public are caught dog fouling or littering, they are first asked to put right what they have done. If they refuse they get a fine.
"We are not going to go back to how it was under the Lib Dems when you had enforcement officers hiding in doorways on Victoria Street waiting to catch a granny who drops a toffee paper."
Conservative group leader Keith Brookes (Con, Haverstoe) said: "As a group, we take the matter of dog fouling seriously. It is a nasty thing to find on the streets and it is a health hazard, particularly to young children. That is why three years ago we put forward an amendment to the budget for three Fido machines to be bought to clean the streets and parks of the borough. However, two of those were never bought and the other one is rarely used.
"Just like the Lib Dems we are annoyed that the problem does not seem to be taken seriously, when it is an issue that is regularly brought up by residents at community forums."
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