Back in January I wrote to the Kirklees Cabinet member with responsibility for enforcement, Councillor Naheed Mather. After some difficulty with emails and then snail mail getting through to Civic 3 I received a pretty lame response which wasn’t really worth the three week wait and all the anticipation.
However it did confirm the councils lack of any prosecutions on the 1064 recorded obstructions logged on the 2007 prow network survey. The reasons given for this incredible performance were notably weak and a further letter has been written to the elusive Mystic Mather to try to draw out some more plausible reasons beyond the “taking a view” type platitudes so beloved of our local politicians and council officers.
Perhaps Mystic Mather could “take a view” into her corporate crystal ball and respond to the 3 week old letter?
19th February 2018
Dear Cllr Mather,
Thank you very much for replying to me.
The reply states that the council does not undertake prosecutions for obstructions to public rights of way because “they are not as straight forward as you think”. However Kirklees Council does have the expertise and resources to bring a complex case to court and prosecute successfully as demonstrated in the Wind Turbine case at Hade Edge. I hope you don’t mind me saying but this really doesn’t ring true.
Your reply goes on to say “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” I wonder if you’d be good enough to specify what these other means of resolving issues might be? How many of the 1064 obstructions recorded in 2007 have been successfully removed by the Council taking this approach? What is the current figure for obstructions on Kirklees paths?
Your reply also states that government funding dictates Council priorities but this is not the whole story. Those 1064 obstructions recorded in 2007 cannot be put down to the effects of the government cuts you quote as they were clearly established prior to 2007.
Government policy, statute and a raft of statutory instruments and other regulations dictate council priorities rather than simply how much money the government puts in the Kirklees bank account. The Council has a statutory duty to maintain public rights of way, to assert and protect the public’s right to use them and of course to carry out appropriate and timely enforcement action. It is not just a question of money.
I have examples through my voluntary work in rights of way of Kirklees Council using its scarce resources poorly and to the least effect particularly in the area of enforcement. The result of these unresolved cases is a cost to the council but no resolution of the problem. The issue is then reported again by the public only for the same costs and ineffective action to be taken. Surely we can both agree that the best course of action is cost effective resolution of reported problems via enforcement action with costs being recovered as far as possible and regular prosecutions of the worst cases to deter similar offences?
I am drawing your attention to these matters as you are the Cabinet Member with a specific responsibility for enforcement and would ask that you diligently look at what I am saying here and apply in a thorough and appropriate manner.
I look forward to your reply.