So back on 19th January after reading of an Enforcement Success In Kirklees I wrote directly to Councillor Mather,the Cabinet member with responsibility for enforcement . After a bit of chasing I got one of those “Friday Afternoon” replies the Council excel at from one of Cllr Mather’s Little Helpers. Cllr Mather’s response to my question ” In the full survey of the rights of way network carried out by Kirklees in 2007 some 1064 illegal obstructions were recorded (that’s 1.5 obstructions per mile). I wonder if you could let me know if any prosecutions were undertaken by the Council as a result of these findings”. contains the admission that the council “does not appear to prosecute as many people as we could” and “There have been no prosecutions taken by the council as a result of the PROW survey back in 2007″
Sadly the reasons for this depressingly poor performance are then justified by the the usual faded and jaded excuses.The odd claim that “this is in the main because they are not as straight forward as you think.” is used. This contradicts Cllr Mather’s and the Council’s account of the wind turbine case which paints a very efficient and professional picture of Council enforcement action. It’s very hard not to come to the obvious conclusion that there are no prosecutions in Kirklees for offences on rights of way because the Council just don’t give a toss.
This is further demonstrated by the conveniently vague claim that “The council has taken the view to try and resolve as many issues as it can without the need to pursue a prosecution” If this approach exists I think Cllr Mather has missed an opportunity to share information on how many issues of obstruction have been resolved through these means since 2007. Has the number of recorded obstructions reduced from 1064 by using this mysterious approach?
The trump card for Kirklees as ever is “We’re skint.Go away” and Cllr Mather’s response pulls that one out right at the end with “Government funding dictates where the council’s priorities lie.” Funny that because I don’t recall a land of milk and honey pre 2007 on the rights of way network here. Let’s face it those 1064 obstructions were built up in the halcyon pre austerity days. A rather damning indictment of the Council’s performance when well funded rather than how it is performing now.
I don’t recall any prosecutions in the past 23 years either. Austerity is not the problem here it is the prevailing culture of indifference by the mostly labour controlled council, poor management by officials and senior executives so out of touch with the people they serve they may as well not be here.
Austerity is the Councils get out of jail free card regarding it’s responsibilities for public rights of way. It will come and go like these things do but the culture surrounding Kirklees Council’s poor treatment of rights of way will be harder to change.
Of course Cllr Mather was full of enthusiasm earlier this week when arguing and voting in favour of the proposal to raise council tax by some 6% for the coming year. For this kind of money I would like some more intelligent answers and less fobbing off.
If you’ve read this far,watched all your paint dry and grass grow here are the two letters referred to.
Enforcement Kirklees Public Rights of Way.
I read with interest an article in the Examiner detailing the Councils successful prosecution of a wind turbine company at Hade Edge and the fines and costs associated with this action. Congratulations to the Council for taking this stance and protecting the public in this way.
This has prompted me to contact you in your role as the cabinet member for enforcement.
I’m sure you are aware that Kirklees Council also has a statutory duty to protect over 700 miles of public rights of way in the district and can similarly prosecute or take enforcement action against those who wilfully obstruct these public highways. Unfortunately prosecutions in this area (which are arguably more straightforward) are practically unheard of and I thought it may be worth bringing this to your attention in the hope that you may be able to look into this and let me know why this is so?
In the full survey of the rights of way network carried out by Kirklees in 2007 some 1064 illegal obstructions were recorded (that’s 1.5 obstructions per mile). I wonder if you could let me know if any prosecutions were undertaken by the Council as a result of these findings. Also I’d be interested to know what action the Council has undertaken in the last 10 years to address the high number of obstructions on public rights of way in Kirklees.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Cllr Mather, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Enforcement Management, has asked that I respond to your letter.
Please accept my apologies for not replying sooner but we do have an extremely heavy workload at this time of the year.
In answer to your question yes, we do not appear to prosecute as many people as we could and this is in the main because they are not as straight forward as you think.
The council has taken the view to try and resolve as many issues as it can without the need to pursue a prosecution which can be time consuming, lengthy, expensive and not always the best use of council resources.
There have been no prosecutions taken by the council as a result of the PROW survey back in 2007 as the council’s priorities have changed significantly since that time.
The council has suffered a significant reduction in Government funding in the last decade of £197 million which is 60% of its budget.
Government funding dictates where the council’s priorities lie.
The council is currently reviewing the Environmental Enforcement Policy which will be considered by the council’ cabinet for approval.