“We do not appear to prosecute as many people as we could” say Kirklees Council

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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.

Kirklees Response

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.

 

 

 

Dear Councillor…

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Under lock & key – a Kirklees path

I’ll happily admit to being one of those people who lumps most politicians a few thousand places beneath contempt. However every now and then I lose control of my cynicism and think “I’ll write to my MP/Councillor” only to be disappointed by the inevitable patronising response.  I lost control of my dim view recently after reading in   Kirklees Together  of the Councils success in prosecuting a dodgy wind turbine operator which I highlighted in Enforcement Success In Kirklees

So I wrote to Cllr Mather the Cabinet Member for enforcement amongst other things to congratulate the Council on its success with this case and of course to draw her attention to the obvious lack of any enforcement successes or prosecutions relating to the 1064 recorded obstructions on the Kirklees rights of way network. That was some 3 weeks ago and since then I’ve heard nothing. Maybe emails can’t get past the The Chief Exec’s Leaves by the door outside Civic Centre 3?

Another copy of the letter has been emailed today and one has gone in the snail mail which can’t be much slower. Meanwhile my chronic cynicism levels are back to a healthily high level.

 

 

Enforcement Success In Kirklees

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This case demonstrates the enforcement capabilities of Kirklees Council. It must have been a difficult and complex case to prove before a court and prosecute successfully. The fine and costs come to £50 odd grand according to the paper which sends out an incredibly strong signal to anyone else thinking of operating in this manner. Of course this is what councils should be doing to protect the environment and public from harm and nuisance where they have the duty and powers to do so.

One of the other  areas of responsibility Kirklees Council has is the  duty to protect over 700 miles of public rights of way in the district. Compared to proving before a court the harm done to residents by noise from a nearby wind turbine I would argue that prosecuting and proving one of the many examples of wilful obstruction to a public right of way is much more straightforward. Clearly Kirklees has the expertise and resources to prosecute such a straightforward matter. A number of successful and well publicised prosecutions for obstructing public rights of way would send out an equally strong message and,I would argue, deter others from obstructing public paths making management and use of the network easier in the long run.

I can’t recall  any recent examples of Kirklees prosecuting for wilful obstruction of a public path despite the many examples they have to choose from but perhaps they don’t publicise this aspect of thier work?