Back in August last year, we revealed that Sandwell council had launched what it called “a consultation exercise” concerning the management of geese in two of its parks, where they had previously admitted to killing 220 birds, against their own existing policy which they appeared to have forgotten, and without carrying out any consultation on a change of policy.
We pointed out the ludicrous bias of the wording of the questionnaires that were sent out for organisations, and how the results could be used by the council to invent a “praise” response to justify more culls under the guise of “public opinion”. A public survey was also reported to have been undertaken at the same time in the two parks, yet there was no media announcement from the council concerning this.
The questionnaire survey, a totally pointless exercise in our opinion has dragged out, or been dragged out until now where the results are in.
Two documents have been released by the council in respect of this.
The first is another report with the names John Satchwell, parks and countryside manager (author of the original hidden culling report), and Adrian Scarrott Head of Neighbourhoods, who at various times throughout this farce has delayed giving us timely information which could have strengthened our argument concerning the petition presentation which was ignored when “No Action” was taken.
- We learn here that the individual questionnaires were supposedly carried out by the warden service (who come under the control of John Satchwell.)
- 634 individual surveys were completed with 73 organisational returns. It is noted here that the author of this report attempts at the outset to suggest that our involvement in returning a questionnaire is somehow underhand. Why else mention how many had been returned by organisations who have pointed out the folly of Sandwell’s culling policy and the failures and lies of the officer at the heart of instigating the unnecessary cull?
- The results provide “significant variations“- that favourite word again.
- “Clearly there are differing views” Oh really?
- “Major findings” can be interpreted in many ways. The main finding that we gather from the questionnaire is how biased it was in delivering an opinion and then asking the public to either agree or disagree with it. Thus goose excrement was introduced as a response without the public having to come up with this themselves in a tick box exercise. If you did not agree with geese being a problem, (and they didn’t want to know why), the subsequent question is largely irrelevant, but is promoted to taking into account the view of those who think it is- which is the council’s own viewpoint, which is subsequently evidenced in points 2.3-2.8 of this report. How this cannot be said to introduce bias is something we very much look forward to learning the Local Government Ombudsman’s opinion on.
- Statement 2.2 is completely incorrect, and given that the two authors of this report were at that meeting, it is worrying that they appear to be attempting to rewrite documented history which disproves the statement. On 25th February our petition was considered by the joint scrutiny committees, not the appeal of the petition. Following the decision to do nothing about the issue of calling an officer in for scrutiny, I did make attempts to appeal this decision, yet this was turned down by a council officers interpretation of their appeals process. This is one of the complaints which the Local Government Ombudsman is currently investigating, and the council are fully aware of this, so why this statement has been made only further damages SMBC’s credibility.
- Of course we welcome the findings that people by and large agree with egg pricking as a first line of tackling what Sandwell council see to be a “problem” and non lethal methods of management. It is hoped that the council do not resort to culling, but who can really trust their officers?
- There is little point reiterating the rubbish, plagiarised copy and pasted statements of 2.3-2.8, but it is noted that someone has appeared to cut 10 years off the life of a goose, when we pointed out that there was only one recorded Canada goose in the UK that had lived beyond the age of 30.
Why this material has once again been reused only serves to leave a bad taste in the mouth- WHEN THE COUNCIL HAVE UTTERLY FAILED TO PROVIDE ANY OF THEIR OWN DIRECT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THE STATEMENTS MADE. THIS UNCHALLENGED RUBBISH IS WHY WE ARE IN THE POSITION WE ARE NOW.
- Nonsense about previous attempts to control numbers appears to have been dropped, in light of damning evidence which confirms that there had not.
- At this point it is worth taking a look at Maria Crompton’s portfolio and what it entails.
- These options do not mention culling, which is encouraging given that the majority of people completing the questionnaires clearly do not agree with it- even when the council attempt to suggest and promote it.
- We agree with the way forward for most of these recommendations, but note that many of them are down to the council’s own actions, and not those of park users who will not alter the behaviour of geese in searching for a natural food source (fresh grass), that the council provide themselves.
- The geese never did exceed excessive numbers, and any numbers that considered “excessive” by the council hatched as a result of them failing to implement their own 1997 policy.
- Bird scaring devices are an unknown quantity which may affect other wildlife which the council claim to want to promote- I’m not sure if they still intend reintroducing Muscovy ducks?
- These are only recommendations, not a final decision. Of course we all know YOU CANNOT TRUST SANDWELL COUNCIL, AND I AM AFRAID THAT THIS RECOMMENDATION WILL IN SOME WAY BE WATERED DOWN, AMMENDED OR FORGOTTEN WHEN THE HEAT DIES DOWN.
Firstly I am not the type of person who pisses around with pretty graphs and pie charts with axis used to further skew results. Percentages can also be widely used to flout data and skew results. There are some concerns with some of the figures presented here.
The questionnaire is opened with this closed question. There is no definition of the word “problem”, but automatically the idea is put in the respondents mind, whereas they may not have even considered Canada geese any differently to any other bird/animal in the two parks.
These results are encouraging, and appear to show that the council have got it wrong on this issue when the majority of people DO NOT THINK THAT CANADA GEESE ARE “A PROBLEM” IN THE TWO PARKS.
On the basis of this answer alone, the rest of the survey appears to be largely redundant.
Another yes/no question, but this time the council wanted 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. It should be asked why do Sandwell council want to know more if people answer yes to this question, whereas if they answer no, then the council is not interested?
In all categories, the answer appears to be a majority said “NO” CANADA GEESE DO NOT AFFECT PEOPLE’S ABILITY TO USE EITHER PARK.
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 results show that the highest number of people support there being 50+ geese in both parks.
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 statements made in John Satchwell’s 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.
This result is nonsense! 76% of people answering the organisational survey for Victoria park and 37% in Dartmouth park are extremely unlikely to have had concerns relating to Canada geese, ON THE BASIS OF THE RESULTS OF THE FIRST THREE QUESTIONS!
Given that our organisation added a box stating “no concerns” or similar on the basis that the council had not added one, and that they have pointed out that we completed the majority of organisational questionnaires, this percentage claim is unsubstantiated.
We are therefore expected to believe that the results shown as percentages for members of the public stopped are also accurate (86%), when once again the first three question results show otherwise.
The council give the top three concerns, but not how many people actually ticked each box.
Of these we would note
- Goose excrement- largely in the council’s own control due to grounds maintenance maintaining adequate standards. IT WAS NOTED THAT DURING THE QUESTIONNAIRE, NO SWEEPERS WERE BEING PUT AROUND EITHER PARK. WE WONDER WHY?
- “Large populations”- Again in council control regards egg pricking- which they failed to do following their 1997 policy.
- “Aggressive behaviour”- where is the evidence here, as opposed to misconception of “aggression”? Hissing is not aggression, it is a defensive response to a threatening stimulus- usually from aggressive children.
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.
The theme that the council are trying to promote- ie the goose population is too high prejudices the answer before it has been posed. Why should goose numbers be “managed” when the council have not proven that other species numbers are in decline, or even if those other species numbers may also need “managing”?
Once again the council’s own view here (as expressed by it’s biased statements made in 2.3-2.8), appears to have been defeated. Two thirds of Dartmouth Park public survey respondents do not think so, which again makes the results of the previous question even more difficult to follow. This I am afraid is where the design of this questionnaire can be seen to be poor.
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.
Given that the majority of people do not believe that geese should be managed in the previous question , this question would appear redundant. Pricking and oiling eggs clearly appears to be the favoured option, yet does the previous question result not supersede this, in that they consider management via egg pricking unnecessary and appear to have no problem with goose numbers?
This is claimed that the council did not ask people the question in the parks.
On this point it should be noted that John Satchwell sent out a misleading letter supplying a statement of purpose mark 2 (not the one mentioned in this report from February 25th) which is NOT COUNCIL POLICY.
Given that only 73 of 707 total responses were organisational (634 individual), it cannot be claimed that somehow the majority of organisational responses, supposedly from us, somehow produced a set of figures that altered the entire public opinion results on this issue. Perhaps this is what the council are trying to create here, but let’s deal in figures rather than percentages.
So who wins from this exercise, and what will the council do next? Our support will always remain with Sandwell’s Canada geese.