Following the last post concerning Victoria park Smethwick and the continued death of birds at this site, I contacted the Express and Star newspaper, who in the first week of August had previously exposed the situation that had been occurring for some weeks.
It was stated in this article by the cabinet member that “We have been liaising with the Environment Agency and the RSPCA and have sent a bird off for an autopsy to ascertain what is causing this problem. We are awaiting the results from DEFRA.”
All this sounded positive spin, yet the reality was quite different.
Once again the latest Express and Star article contains the following from Councillor Gavan about Sandwell council’s apparent proactive approach. .
“We are very sad to see that birds are dying at the pool and we are investigating the most recent spate of deaths.
“Dead birds are currently with the RSPCA and Natural England for autopsy to try to establish the cause of death.
“We are working closely with the friends group, DEFRA and the RSPCA and Natural England to deal with issues at the pool as quickly as possible. Our engineers are working to fix the collapsed drain and we are shortly to tender for oxygenating equipment for a number of our pools.
“We will also work with a contractor to remove litter and refuse from the pool.”
There are a number of facts of the case which need to be put on record surrounding these SMBC press office claims.
- Sandwell council were aware of the bird deaths in July, and have had over three months to collect litter, fix the collapsed drain, and to install oxygenating equipment.
- The RSPCA have told me that Sandwell council stated to them that they would be doing this following the initial incidents in August- BUT DIDN’T.
- The RSPCA have had great difficulty in getting anyone from management in Sandwell council to contact them or get back to them.
- The RSPCA left dead birds that they had collected for the council with SMBC/Serco to arrange collection with DEFRA.
- Two weeks later leading up to the report I put in on 8th October about fresh dead birds, they were still in a Serco freezer at Oldbury.
I CONTACTED THE WILDLIFE INCIDENT UNIT AT NATURAL ENGLAND- SPECIFICALLY DUE TO THE PRESENCE OF RAT POISONS PUT DOWN HAPHAZARDLY BY SANDWELL COUNCIL EMPLOYEES.
The wildlife incident unit picked up all the bodies, and so this had nothing to do with the council “arranging” to do anything to investigate the issue. They would still be going off in the Serco freezer if it had been left to Sandwell council managers.
I also contacted The Environment Agency who told me that because it wasn’t a River they couldn’t investigate it, but just issue the council with “advice”- presumably as they had in July, but I wonder what they had advised and if the council had followed it? The officer from the EA who rang me back said that someone from the council had said that they would ring me back in five days, though I note that this didn’t happen.
In terms of litter, this is merely a symptom of the council’s neglect, but a red herring in terms of it having anything to do with the bird deaths at the pool. Most of the litter is connected to drug and alcohol misuse and little else. This week some of it finally appears to have been collected, but only as a result of the bad publicity. I am still sending off a dossier of evidence to Keep Britain Tidy as regards their Green Flag designation of this park.