The Alfred Hitchcock 1935 film involved espionage, murder and deception. A music hall performance character known as “Mr Memory” fabled for his egg head knowledge and recall of facts held a secret code for the design for a silent aircraft engine which a foreign power wanted.
Sandwell council have their very own secret policy of managing Canada geese. It involves multiple deception by its agents and is about as convoluted as any Hitchcock film. Mr Memory would have difficulty in being able to recall what it was. Let’s review the evidence.
What is Sandwell council’s policy of managing Canada geese in its formal parks?
Council “policy” and lack of public consultation in a change of council policy.
- In 1997 the council appear to have adopted a formal policy on Canada geese, as I had to remind them via a letter I received at the time from the man in charge of Sandwell’s parks and open spaces.
- this stated “It has at no time been the Local Authority’s intention to pursue any other policy..”
- None of this was mentioned in John Satchwell’s April 2013 report.
- The council did not consult the public before this cull had taken place and in implementing this apparent new “policy”
- This has been admitted by its monitoring officer.
- It was not admitted by head of Neighbourhoods Adrian Scarrott at the meeting discussing our petition calling on a senior officer to give evidence under scrutiny. The monitoring officer claims in her letter that she wrote to Adrian Scarrott with the points mentioned above.
- This is Adrian Scarrott’s claimed version of events, which earlier statements contradict.
- The council did not “obtain” or “apply” for any licence as none is needed under the general licence that they claim to be using – protection of public health and safety.
- The statement concerning “relevant permissions” are therefore complete nonsense. Except to say that Satchwell’s report was so poor on evidence, that it now cannot be used to justify a cull- as was evidenced at the scrutiny meeting with his lack of evidence for the geese causing human health risks in the two parks.
- The Cabinet member who allegedly had powers to approve the cull under her portfolio did not ask any questions about this maladministration (changing existing policy)before approving “verbally” this new policy.
- Steve Handley (the director of Streetscene) stated the following himself in a freedom of information request to myself, which predates this explanation- 13th August 2014.
- “There was no cabinet report regards approval to relocate the geese. A cabinet briefing was presented to the cabinet member – this is not a public document. We do not hold any information regarding the approval of the process; as such approval was given verbally for 2013/14.”
- The council can offer no formal record of the decision ever being taken at any meeting, and it appears it was approved “informally”.
- The councillors on the joint scrutiny committee failed to launch an investigation into why any of this had occurred. They failed in their task of holding the executive to account in what is clear maladministration on the part of the council.
- They also did not even consider the provision of false information which their officers gave.
- WHY WAS THE EXISTING POLICY OF 1997 NOT INCLUDED WITHIN THE DOCUMENTS?
- A “draft statement of purpose” was proposed to be consulted upon, which would be used as a new policy on all of Sandwell’s open spaces- as revealed at the scrutiny meeting.
- Unfortunately this document is described as “policy”, within the document itself, and also on the council’s own website.
- Consultation on this draft ” policy” never materialised after the February meeting.
- A questionnaire was then sent out IN OCTOBER with one of the questions asking members of the public whether they agreed with “council policy” , the same public who had already been left out of the change in policy as admitted by the monitoring officer due to councillors and officers not following proper procedure.
- A letter was received by myself from John Satchwell, which attached a different statement of purpose to the one which was supposedly being consulted upon from the February meeting. He is quite clear in what he states is now “council policy”. THIS IS CLEARY MADE IN BLACK AND WHITE. This therefore bears no relevance to the existing 1997 approved policy, which the monitoring officer claimed should have been consulted upon if changed.
- We have looked at the differences in the two statements of purpose at the following links.
- page one
- page two
- page three
- This statement in writing on council headed paper by John Satchwell appears to be more provision of false information, and which he is aware is untrue, as the new statement of purpose, or the previously worded one has ever been ratified as “policy” because it has not to date ever been consulted upon, nor approved by any formal process, (unless the cabinet member has once again undertaken unrecorded change in policy without consultation). His letter misleads, and was I state an attempt to alter responses to the questionnaire in agreeing with whatever the council considers “policy”.
- The whole basis of the questionnaire is therefore misleading in that answers received will not reflect what the policy ever was. Did those completing the forms get the 1997 policy or the statement of purpose in its two different forms?
John Satchwell recently wrote to Animal Aid where “policy” was again mentioned. Animal Aid sent a non lethal pest control consultant who met us at Victoria Park Tipton and Dartmouth Park West Bromwich. He sent a report to the council, as mentioned in the letter below.
This letter reveals that 644 responses have supposedly been received by the council from members of the public. The council did not consult on a “change of policy” but asked about whether they agreed with the current one. The statement of purpose (two versions)is not even mentioned in the questionnaire.
His claims about non bias are ludicrous. All members of Parks and countryside are under his direct management, as are the street wardens whom it is alleged counted the geese. As was seen by numerous officers of Sandwell Valley providing false information, the chances of anyone in his team providing truthful results or conclusions is extremely small, given HIS direct involvement.
This repeats information regards egg pricking which they can only produce from the two years which their own officers were not actually tasked with the job. We note the error in the second table headers which should read 2013 and 2014.
A number of new important statements are made by John Satchwell in this third page.
- He claims that the levels of geese in the two parks are now “acceptable levels”, yet one of the questions in the questionnaire asked this very same question with bizarre quota numbers.
- References to notices around the lakes refers to the public feeding birds. This is irrelevant to control of geese who feed on grass provided to them by the council itself- the primary reason why they graze on the grass in formal parks.
- His comments concerning goose excrement are biased in that the questionnaire specifically invited this response.
- His groundcare team under his direction failed over the course of the summer to undertake any cleansing of the park lake paths, a pure attempt to raise this issue in light of the questionnaire. Once completed, the road sweepers were suddenly seen in the parks again.
- At this point John Satchwell mentions the statement of purpose, yet the version he sent Animal Aid was the first original version, (Appendix 7) as revealed at the scrutiny meeting in February. SO WHY DID HE SEND ME A DIFFERENT VERSION WHICH HE CLAIMED WAS NOW “COUNCIL POLICY”?
- He appears to speak on behalf of the council members as though he already has their opinion and approval on what is supposed to be a public consultation. This exceeds his office. Who does he think he is?
- He claims that these members have not ruled out culling in the future- where is the record of this and what information is it based on?
- He claims to want to achieve a non lethal method of goose number management, which his original report did not consider at all, yet the questionnaire invites public opinion on this exact question.
- THIS RAISES THE SPECTRE THAT THE COUNCIL WILL USE THE FRAUD RESULTS OF THIS QUESTIONNAIRE TO DIRECT ITS POLICY- THUS OFFICERS AND COUNCILLORS HIDE BEHIND MADE UP ANONYMOUS RESPONSES PASSED OFF AS “PUBLIC OPINION”. REMEMBER THEY IGNORED OUR PETITION TOTALLY WHERE NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF REAL PEOPLE WERE RECORDED.
- THE COUNCIL MADE NO PUBLIC STATEMENT THAT ANY CONSULTATION WAS TAKING PLACE. ON THEIR OWN WEBSITE AS JOHN SATCHWELL CLAIMED WOULD BE THE CASE, IN ITS COUNCIL TAX PAYER FUNDED NEWSPAPER, ON SOCIAL MEDIA, OR IN THE MEDIA.
- He has provided the charity with false information.
I queried “what is the policy” formally with the council in a freedom of information request. As usual the council delayed answering it with some rubbish about a computer mix up; (after the questionnaire “consultation” had ended they provided a response.)
Q. “Confirmation as to the status of the Council’s current policy on the management of Canada geese, given that question 7 of the questionnaire is extremely unclear and misleading when considering the circumstances of how this “policy” arrived at being so. Are you stating that the re-written “statement of purpose” was once again verbally waived
through by a councillor without being formally consulted on beforehand and without any formal record being made of it being changed?”
“The Statement of Purpose is not a policy document, but a document that explains in more detail the reason the Council chooses to manage numbers within its formal Town Parks. The statement of purpose was amended following direction from our Cabinet member, Cllr Crompton and amendments were made as instructed.”
“The policy on controlling goose numbers was determined in 1997 and I understand you already have a copy of this.”
So this appears to prove that John Satchwell sent me false information concerning what he clearly states is “council policy”. It also appears to suggest that Councillor Crompton reworded the statement, yet this was not what the joint scrutiny committee recommended in its ten minute “consideration” of our petition. FORMAL RECORD OF THE MEETING STATES THAT THEY APPROVED THE DRAFT AS “A BASIS FOR CONSULTATION.”
- When was the proposed framework for the consultation submitted to the board for approval? This did not happen.
“THIS NOT A POLICY DOCUMENT ” IS NOT REFERRED TO IN QUESTION 7 OF THE QUESTIONNAIRE ,BUT THEIR EXISTING “POLICY” IS. THEY HAVE THEREFORE NOT CONSULTED ON THIS STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AT ALL!!
When opposing the cull and writing to the Cabinet member still responsible for this fiasco- Councillor Maria Crompton, her reply letter stated the following.
“Once a final decision is made on our future approach, we will seriously consider approaching Animal Aid for advice.”
Well that didn’t happen. I approached Animal Aid and the reply from John Satchwell says it all. In light of the confusion surrounding what they had been sent, the Director of the charity Andrew Tyler sent a clarification email to the Leader of Sandwell council Darren Cooper.
The reply below, where they cannot even get his name right is perhaps indicative of this council.
The statement above confirms that the “statement of purpose”(which of the two versions John Satchwell sent out?) has been accepted by The Cabinet Member for Highways and Environment. The scrutiny Board for Neighbourhoods and Public Health does not exist. The new scrutiny board which this fiasco is supposed to be reported is now called “Leisure, Culture and the Third Sector Scrutiny Board.”
There has been no explanation as to why this scrutiny board, which has nothing to do with health issues or the environment- (remember the alleged reason for the cull?) is now involved with this. It is not even within Crompton’s portfolio.
But wait, look at the disclaimer at the bottom of the email
“This information has been provided by John Satchwell, parks and Countryside Manager”
You can take what he says with a very large pinch of salt, as has already been demonstrated on numerous occasions.
So In light of where we are now?
CONFUSED BY SANDWELL COUNCIL AND THEIR BIZZARE “POLICY” NO IT’S NOT “POLICY” ITS A “CONSULTATION DOCUMENT”? SO ARE WE, SO WE INVITED THE MEMORY CHAMPION TO ANSWER THE QUESTION WHICH APPARENTLY NOBODY APPEARS TO KNOW THE ANSWER TO- PERHAPS IT’S TOP SECRET?
Q “Mr Memory, what is Sandwell council’s policy on managing Canada geese in its formal parks?”
We hope that the Local Government Ombudsman, who is investigating numerous issues regards this cull fiasco will perhaps be able to unravel the mystery of Sandwell Council’s 39 goose steps.