It was over six months ago that we handed in the last paper petition to Sandwell Council regarding the culling of geese in Sandwell. This petition was presented to The Cabinet Petitions Committee on 18th May. “Progress” on petitions appears to be somewhat slower than the change of politics in Sandwell, especially given that this new committee does not now include any of the members that were on the committee at that time in May.
This week I received an agenda that the matter was now being discussed at the next petitions committee on 24th August. The response is recorded below.
At the time of presenting the petition in May, I was asked to provide a written copy of what I had stated at the meeting- which I did to both the investigating officer and the Democratic Services officer who forwarded it on. The officer stated that he would respond on a point by point basis. Unfortunately I have to date received NOTHING. It should also be stated that accompanying the petition in February was a link to our report, The Prejudiced Lie– a source document detailing the whole sorry affair that has unfolded regards the council’s actions over the last few years.
This response doesn’t acknowledge this or the points made in the presentation, which the officer has. It is worth looking at the two petitions presented to the council and their wording, which although both asked for “non-lethal methods” are quite different in what they were calling for. The first was about an officer giving evidence under scrutiny to explain the actions of the council. This farcical meeting and its decision of councillors to take “no action”, especially looks remiss now considering the departure of the main protagonist behind the cull, whose actions and professional integrity can certainly be called into question.
The petition handed in in May read as follows, and I have underlined the part which SMBC officers appear to have ignored addressing- which is behind the entire reasons why the council may choose in future to carry out culls. It is their actions which control if this does or does not happen, and any attempts to ignore implementing “non-lethal methods” of site management only appear to suggest that they are not committed to no culls in the future.
Groundcare carried out by Council staff and more importantly the managers who control what work and budget is spent in parks and green spaces underpin “the conflicts of interest” that were highlighted in this petition. “Poor management” includes not carrying out regular sweeps of pathways of excrement for which the council claimed was a “health and safety risk” and the reason for culling under licence, yet from what I can see in the last six months they are quite satisfied to leave this “hazard” in situ.
Unfortunately the previous incumbent in parks management was content to blame his and his staffs failure for groundcare on the scapegoat geese, but this will not do going forward, if the council as they say are about justifying actions under scrutiny. If they want to reduce complaints, which we know to be largely fictitious, then they will have to show that they have made some effort to reduce conflicts with park users by clearing up the shit. After all, it’s “a health a safety risk” isn’t it?
Park pathways for some reason were deliberately made to not allow sweeping machines around Victoria Park, and the standard of work carried out here can be seen to be unbelievably poor. For some reason park management appeared to have approved contracts very regularly to two contractors, one based in Tipton, the other in Cannock. One might ask if preferment goes by the letter and not by the law in procurement, or if old family connections were put above competitive tendering when work was carried out in Sandwell’s parks- but that isn’t for me to investigate is it?
Of course one could take the view that by leaving things as they are, the only “progress” made is that grass will continue to grow long on nature reserves and be cut short frequently in parks- thus not showing much attempt at non lethal methods of site management. This unfortunately is the legacy of the previous parks manager in Sandwell.
Having voiced my concern that the issues raised in the petition concerning the council’s groundcare have not been adequately addressed, the new cabinet member replacing Maria Crompton has thankfully agreed to defer the matter being addressed at the committee. At least some progress can be reported here then if Councillor Hossell is prepared to ask officers the questions instead of his predecessor who unfortunately took their words as gospel without scrutiny.