Way back in February we presented a petition to Sandwell Council against their decision to cull a reported 220 Canada geese in two of their green flag parks. As has been revealed through scrutiny of the councils actions, this decision was never one based on any scientific evidence that the birds posed a serious risk to human health.
Moreover not only was there NO EVIDENCE to support this, the council could not even remember its own policy or produce the report which informed it, including crucially the claim which supported theirs that would show an increase in goose numbers in Sandwell’s parks. We dispute there has been an alarming increase in numbers at all, merely one of perception based on the council’s lies and posturing on its green flag status, backed up by bigots within certain “friends” groups and those selfishly engaged in amateur competitive sports.
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO PROVE THAT GOOSE NUMBERS HAVE INCREASED. THE COUNCIL STATE THIS AS FACT, YET CANNOT AS YET PROVE IT EVIDENTIALLY.
This in itself is not a valid lawful reason for carrying out a cull according to Natural England guidance, and certainly the council would need to demonstrate that the birds they would intend culling are resident and not merely transient in molting and then moving on to other areas.
IN THIS REGARD THE COUNCIL HAVE ALSO FAILED TO PRODUCE ANY EVIDENCE WHICH CAN BE MEASURED TO FORM AN OPINION BASED ON SOUND SCIENCE. In February it was decided by a scrutiny board so bereft of any definition of the word to endorse a “statement of purpose” for consultation offered by the Head of Neighbourhoods and Director of Sreetscene, Adrian Scarrott and Steve Handley respectively. This was endorsed by the joint scrutiny board for health and neighbourhoods, and this is minuted by the council as a true record. From minutes of the joint neighbourhoods and health scrutiny board February 25th 2015
“The Board was therefore minded to endorse the draft Statement of Purpose as a basis for consultation and requested that the proposed framework for the consultation be submitted to a future meeting of the Board for endorsement, before submission to the Cabinet Member.”
Nothing appeared to have happened with this and no consultation materialised over the spring or summer months, whereby I finally received a response from Scarrott that there would be no goose culls this year. Imagine my surprise then this week to receive a questionnaire and letter purporting to be from John Satchwell, the architect of the cull and biased goose hater. One would have thought that the council would have not involved such a divisive figure, exposed as a serial liar and an officer who engages in making threats and provoking confrontations towards a campaigner who disagrees with his dogmatic hatred of wildlife in Sandwell’s parks. But this is Sandwell council, and they are not very bright.
Here is the letter below. Nothing much new, the same old lies and illusory correlation which as stated above they cannot support with evidence under scrutiny, but the “statement of purpose” appears to have mysteriously been ditched. Where was the meeting which dispensed with this, and who approved a questionnaire?
The other main point is that this now appears to be a two park issue rather than a borough policy issue, which only confuses what this council are trying to achieve. Satchwell’s involvement in these two parks, are too close for him to lead such an issue, and his bosses only serve to further tarnish their portfolios by involving this disgraced officer.
The council have not attempted to manage Canada goose numbers by methods suggested by Natural England. The council and their “partners” are frequent in quoting legislation and guidance from outside organisations to back their flimsy arguments, yet scrutiny of their claim does not stack up. We know through sources within the council that the countryside rangers, tasked with carrying out a two week egg pricking exercise in the 1997 policy report, did not do anything like this in the intervening years. Specifically they did not prick eggs at Dartmouth park.
Large numbers of creched goslings up to 40+ were ringed with red rings. The header photo used in our campaign is of goslings from this site in 2011. So their claim is a lie, written of course by a proven liar. Of course I would accept that he may have been misinformed that pricking was taking place by another proven liar in charge of parks and countryside services during this time.
When questioned on how many eggs had been pricked, Satchwell could yet again offer no recorded evidence to support the statement, which we know to be untrue. The numbers of course have not increased, if one is to believe that egg pricking was being carried out. As it is, the numbers have not increased significantly at all. The council attempt to link our petition calling for action and investigation into Satchwell’s lies by claiming that this biased unscientific questionnaire is an attempt at quelling our concerns.
IT ONLY OF COURSE FUELS THEM.
For some reason I received 20 questionnaires relating to Victoria park and an identical one related to Dartmouth Park, complete with business reply envelopes to return to a council PO box number. This must be costing the taxpayer a fortune, and for very little reward. One has to wonder what exactly is going on with this questionnaire and there are widespread implications for fraud which we will look at below. Do individual members of the public have a voice for example, and why should any “group” be more important than one informed person? Moreover more worryingly, some of the supporters of SMBC have no regard whatsoever for wildlife.
So the approved “statement of purpose” for some reason has been ditched for a junior school type popularity contest. If this is the level of standard within this council you can see why they should be in special measures. There is no end date of when the consultation finishes, which is concerning in itself.
By way of reminder here is what Councillor Maria Crompton stated in a letter to Animal Aid last year. One can only assume that her words were utter rubbish concerning informed decision making, and what we have instead is an avian “x factor” nonsense, where results can be manufactured to the council’s benefit.
The questionnaire itself could only be described as having been constructed by someone of less than GCSE standard, and that is probably an insult to some of the gifted kids in Sandwell perennially failed by a rubbish council. Worse than having very little input in terms of informed scientific evidence, it is the confirmation bias which is most troubling in that it is constructed to read exactly the way in which the council want a “consultation” to appear. This is that their approach is correct and the public support it.
Let’s analyse the questions in turn.
The term “problem” is not identified, nor why this one species should be more of “a problem” than any other. Instantly people are confronted with a yes/no choice that is not scaled.
Another yes/no question, but this time the council want elaboration from people who consider the geese cause them a disability in using the park. This information can of course be misused to suggest that the geese are causing a greater issue than they actually are with members of the public. Statements will no doubt be amplified by the pro cull council, whereas anyone who replies “NO” gets to make no other statement.
Out of all the questions, this is without doubt the most ludicrous and appears to confirm the amateurish designer’s lack of knowledge regards geese, their behaviour and different times of year when different numbers of geese will be present in parks.
The question is loaded in that it assumes that a number of geese should be identified above the number of any other wildfowl present at the site, yet if someone had answered “no” to both the first two questions, they are then met with this third one which they have little choice but to conform to the council’s biased idea that goose numbers must be controlled. The lack of knowledge suggests that this loony council will achieve a consensus number which people want and then justify any numbers above this to carry out a cull.
Such nonsense would clearly NOT comply with any licence for culling by Natural England. Public popularity is not an issue which they consider reasonable, and the council if acting on this would be acting unlawfully. The 10 number incremental gradation is also laughable, given that birds may well be present on islands, in the water, on the grass and none of them actually causing the public any harm whatsoever.
Counting geese is not causing people real harm and the council have still to justify a correlation between a single goose causing human health related issues let alone several more.
The council now resort to repeating and attempting to coerce people into ticking a box which they have pre identified as being “a problem” about the geese. Most of these are based on Satchwell’s lies within his original report, but it is an attempt to merely justify the lies by inciting public opinion to back them. Anyone who answered “NO” to the first question is left baffled by this one, yet there is no box provided to state that the respondent considers that the geese cause no problems and the council have got it wrong. The council have not proven that any of the “problems” that they identify actually exist with any scientific evidence.
In short we have refuted their claims about
“NUISANCE BEHAVIOUR DURING YOUR VISIT TO THE PARK”
Quite what the last response relates to is baffling given the numbers of anti social behaviour being carried out by humans in the two parks, including murder.
This question is ambiguous and could be misleading to respondents. It also provides a Hobson’s choice answer. Canada geese may be “managed” , but there is a major difference between answering “yes” and then agreeing to killing them off. If stating “No” they should not be managed this should not rule out egg pricking, but the results could be skewed to present such a black and white answer for the council.
This now assumes two things for the council which lead to bias. They state that there are “large numbers” of geese and tie it to how the council should “manage” them. This further confuses people who do not agree with either of these two statements, largely because the council fail to provide any recorded evidence to prove the statements. What population can be described as “large”? It is also ignorant of the fact that the geese numbers vary by time of year, so are not as “large” at different times as others. The options are of cause crucial, yet there is a sinister non accidental placing of “Canada geese” written in white on green background immediately opposite the “controlled and humane culling” option.
Another ambiguous statement of yes or no. The policy of the council is still officially egg pricking, yet this we know has not been carried out. But in this context “the policy” may refer to their illegal misuse of a culling licence taking place in the two parks in 2013/14. So which option are respondents supposed to tick, and how do the council interpret this ambiguous badly worded question? They also invite a “praise” response for themselves whereas a “no” option In short if a greater majority of people tick “no” for questions 1, 2 and 5, their opinions will be given less imput than those who answer in a different way. THIS IS NOT FAIR AND SHOWS BIAS.
Aside from the biased questionnaire, we do not know which organisations have been sent these questionnaires or how many they have been given. One could be extremely pessimistic that the council has sent large numbers to organisations which back their culling policy such as “the friends of Dartmouth park.”
Such vote rigging does not inform policy it just corrupts it entirely. If this is to form the basis of the council’s decision on killing more geese then of course we will oppose it. As the council’s questionnaire appears biased and flawed in its apparatus, we of course encourage people who signed our petition as “SAVE OUR SANDWELL CANADA GEESE” to back our organisation and download the above questionnaires to return to Sandwell council. They were back to back copied for each park, and make sure to fill one out for each park. We would suggest the following answers.
Q3 “50+” You could also write a comment here regarding how this question shows poor understanding of bird movements.
Q4 ADD A BOX “NO PROBLEMS” or something similar.
Q5 “NO” and add underneath “NOT BY KILLING HEALTHY ADULT BIRDS” or something similar just so the council are clear on your response.
Q6 The best option remains “pricking or oiling of the eggs of laying pairs.”
Q7 Please clearly state that you do not agree with killing adult birds
Finally please send your completed questionnaires to
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
PO BOX 2374
YOU COULD OF COURSE ALSO INCLUDE A LETTER TO GIVE SANDWELL COUNCIL YOUR INFORMED OPINION.