To consider the report of the Team Manager,
Consideration was given to report of the Team Manager Environmental Protection.
The Team Manager Environmental Protection presented the report which updated Members on the progress of the Litter and Dog Control Order enforcement initiative in operation in the Borough since October 2011; and detailed outcomes for the 2019/20 financial year. During 2018/19, Blaenau Gwent CBC was one of the top performing LA’s in Wales for the issuing of Litter and Dog Control fixed penalty notices, however, the national figures for 2019/20 are yet to be released.
The Officer said during the third quarter of 2019/20 there was initial concern about the end of year net- cost of the service arising from on-going financial monitoring, and as a result, the service level agreement (SLA) for 2020/21 was re-negotiated with LA Support Limited. The new SLA provided a guaranteed zero cost service for the Local Authority with LA Support Limited now retaining all income received from fines generated and not charging the Local Authority for any staff costs.
The Officer confirmed that the service was suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic and the need to minimise human to human contact. The situation was under constant review, and it was anticipated that the service would be reinstated when the legal and public health restrictions are eased to allow the service to return in a viable form.
A Member expressed concern that the amount of dog fouling had increased during the lockdown period, with more people walking their dogs, and said extra patrols would be needed when the service resumed.
In response the Officer it was acknowledged that dog ownership had increased during the Covid pandemic. He pointed out that the number of complaints received about dog fouling had reduced significantly during 2019/20 and was the lowest recorded since enforcement began. Progress was being made in challenging the problem, but unfortunately patrols had not been undertaken since March so inevitably the problem had increased.
The Member suggested a social medial campaign be undertaken to reinforce the risk to public health, and that it was an offence to not pick up after your dog. The Officer undertook to liaise with the Communications.
A Member referred to the new SLA arrangements, and the Officer confirmed that the principles of the SLA would continue to be monitored. He had a very good working relationship with the company, and it provided stability in terms of experienced Officers working in the Borough.
Another Member said the amount of FPNs issued for dog fouling was very low compared to FPNs issued for litter offences, and suggested that this was due to the timing of patrols. He felt that patrols early in the morning and around 6 p.m. would be more productive.
The Officer confirmed that regular patrols were undertaken of ‘hot spot’ areas, and more targeted patrols based on intelligence received, but the offence was very difficult to police. He also pointed out that the vast majority of dog owners were responsible.
A discussion ensued when a Member expressed concern regarding the Council’s ranking on the street cleanliness indicator highlighted in Keep Wales Tidy annual report for 2018/19. He said dog fouling and litter was a major problem and said he wondered whether the reduction in complaints being received was due to ‘reporting fatigue’.
In response the Officer said the main factors in providing clean and pleasant streets to live in was enforcement; the ability to respond reactively and pro-actively; and also society attitude to their surrounding area. From an enforcement perspective the Council was one of the better performing LA’s in Wales for issuing FPNs and undertaking patrols of areas where issues are identified.
In terms of the Member’s comment that the public have ‘reporting fatigue’ he said the social media campaign could be used to reiterate the fact that the Council would not tolerate dog fouling and litter offences and will issue FPNs.
The Team Leader Streetscene confirmed that work was currently ongoing with consultants to develop a litter strategy for Blaenau Gwent. The strategy was in draft form and it would be included in the Committee’s FWP February/March next year.
The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and the information contained therein be noted (Option 1).