Calls have been made for more detail and costings on proposals to tackle fly tipping, dog fouling and pests in Merthyr Tydfil. Independent councillors have made the calls about the opposition Labour group’s notice of motion calling for a tougher stance on fly tipping on private land, controls on dog fouling, the reintroduction of a dog warden and the scrapping of pest control charges which was considered by full council on Wednesday, September 7 but voted down through a casting vote from the mayor.
The ideas from the Labour group included introducing a new public spaces protection order (PSPO) to include the enforcement of penalties for dog fouling, reinstating the dog warden post and taking a tougher approach to fly tipping which includes the removal, enforcement and penalties for fly tipping on privately-owned land. Another proposal they had was to scrap pest control charges saying: “Residents are facing a cost-of-living crisis and paying for Pest Control Services is a charge that many will be unable to afford.”
The notice of motion said that the Labour group were elected based on six pledges, one of which was to do with safer and cleaner streets. It added that they “recognise the natural beauty contained within our County Borough and seek to create the conditions needed for residents to enjoy a clean environment.”
It added: “Those who continually undermine Merthyr Tydfil as a place to be proud of, by littering, fouling and fly-tipping need to face the consequences of their actions.”
Criticism of ‘toothless’ council
Councillor Gareth Lewis, Labour, said when the council consulted the public two years ago on dog fouling, 96% of those who responded said they felt it had a detrimental effect on their community while 73% said it had a direct impact on their day to day life. He mentioned a few examples of the 603 comments received which detailed people’s experiences.
Cllr Lewis said: “Despite an overwhelming majority of the public asking for measures to tackle this menace and a report to the neighbourhood services scrutiny committee in January 2021, the independent local authority remains toothless in tackling the minority of dog owners who are persistently responsible for blighting our environment.” He said as a manifesto pledge, the public have provided the Labour group with a mandate to push ahead with this measure to clean up Merthyr’s streets and trails.
‘The devil is in the detail’ says former independent council leader
Councillor Lisa Mytton, independent, said that as a dog owner herself she agrees. She said: “It is disgraceful. Dog owners who do not pick up after their dogs are disgraceful. Dog owners who take their dogs on sports pitches are disgraceful.”
But she said the motion does not give them the devil in the detail that they need. She said: “I’m not disagreeing with it but we need the information in this actual notice of motion.”
She also said it’s about educating dog owners and that wherever you have a dog warden you are still going to get people who are not respecting or knowing what they have to do when they have a pet. She said: “We can’t blatantly support something that hasn’t got the financial aspects within the body of the report.”
Cllr Mytton said it’s the same with pests describing them as a “they’re an absolute nightmare” and said they’re dealing with massive rat issues. She said council has got to work collaboratively. Councillor David Isaac, Labour, said implementing a PSPO is “desperately needed” and raised the issue of dog fouling in cemeteries.
He said a PSPO would go a long way in dealing with this and said a dog warden post could be a shared service. Cllr Isaac said they need to do something about fly tipping on private land and on the issue of rats he said they are “a borough-wide problem so let’s get a borough wide solution to it.”
Concern the proposals haven’t been fully costed
Councillor Geraint Thomas, independent leader of the council, said he doesn’t think there’s anyone in the chamber who disagrees with the notices of motion. But he said: “However, again, it’s another piece of work which hasn’t been costed out.”
On a PSPO, he said they need enforcement officers because “it’s pointless having the bark if you haven’t got the bite” and he would want to take this to the budget workshop. On the dog warden post he said he doesn’t disagree but again there’s a cost involved and would also like to take this to the budget workshop.
On fly tipping he said it’s a big bug bear for everyone and is blighting the community and the beautiful countryside and something the council wants to be tougher on. On rats, he said he’s challenged environmental health to speak to Welsh Water and large construction companies working in the area to pay for baiting because they are a “major issue”.
He said the independent group couldn’t support the “uncosted” notice of motion. Councillor Malcolm Colbran, independent, said he’d like to see a scheme on pest control to help those who can’t afford the full amount but he couldn’t agree to an open ended commitment whereby every resident in the borough could apply for free pest control as he couldn’t see how the council could afford that.
Labour label decision a ‘political choice’
Councillor Brent Carter, Labour, said they’re all political decisions and they’re all within the council’s gift in regards to budgets and said the dog warden and enforcement could be a combined job. On education of dog owners he said you can only educate people so much and what they need now is actions and that it’s what the people want.
Councillor Anna Williams-Price, Labour, said the point of the motion was to make Merthyr Tydfil a place to be proud of and that residents feel they have a stake in that objective. She said: “At the moment residents feel that fly tippers and those who don’t clean up after their dog don’t face any penalties but those who do try and do the right thing on important issues such as rats and other pests face a charge which they can ill afford.”
Councillor Clive Jones, Labour, said he’s been knocking his head against a brick wall for years on the issue of tackling fly tipping on private land. He said there is legislation in various departments but they need co-ordination and the will to deal with this and they need to take people to court as that is the only language some people understand.
On the issue of rats he’s said since they’ve introduced the charge for pest control, things have got worse because the environmental health department has no overall view of where the rat population is as the public either have to find private contractors who are not as efficient or they can’t pay the charge so nothing is done. He said the £50 is having a real effect and added “we need to deal with it, the public out there are expecting us to deal with it”.
Councillor Darren Roberts, leader of the Labour group, said it was a shame to hear from the leader that the independents couldn’t support the notice of motion as they were looking for a commitment to deliver on these issues. He said the costs would be brought to members at budget setting boards and “what we spend our money on as a council is a political choice and as a Labour group we’ve made our political choice quite clear this evening.”
Independent councillors support the idea but say this isn’t how to go about it
Councillor Michelle Symonds, independent, said: “The commitment to these issues raised in the motion is not in question” but the point being made is about the lack of costings. Councillor Andrew Barry said they’ve all heard the same stories but to bring isolated items that are uncosted to council and expect them to sign a blank cheque is not the way to do business.
He said they should bring it to the budget setting process so they can look at it in the round and continue to look at all costs and then make their choices. Councillor Declan Sammon, independent, said that if independents vote against the proposals “it’s not because they’re against them it’s because they’re being responsible.”
He said residents won’t appreciate non-costed policies being implemented which could have a huge effect on council tax.
The councillor who proposed the motion has his say
Councillor David Jones, Labour, said rats have moved to residential areas as a result of the works to the A465 and water works in parts of the county borough. He said: “If we are to improve the safety and cleanliness of the county borough, all of the measures in this notice of motion need to be run in tandem.
“Everyone seems to know the issues, but nothing is being done about them. This will look to address that.”
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