“1.0 Purpose of Report/Summary of Main Issues
1.1 To provide members of the People and Communities Committee with an update on the issues raised at the Council Meeting on Monday 4 September 2023 regarding the Responsible Dog Ownership – Update Report (dated 8 August 2023). The Council agreed that the minute be taken back to the Committee for further consideration, and to allow further information on the issue to be provided.
1.2 Members are reminded that at the Committee of 11th September 2023 the following decision was agreed:
· agreed to defer consideration of the minute to the October meeting, to enable the Director to prepare a report on the available options regarding fines;
· agreed to submit a report to a future meeting considering the Council undertaking a feasibility study on providing street bins in areas where fouling had been a persistent problem, including consideration of the erection of lamppost bins in certain hotspots areas; and
· requested an update on FIDO machines.
1.3 In addition to the noted actions, this report provides more detail about signage and Dog Enclosures in Parks.
2.1 The Committee is asked to:
· Note the updates on the issues raised at Council on 4 September 2023 in relation to fines and signage;
· Note the update on New FIDO machines and
· note that a further report will be brought back on the other items in relation to a feasibility study on street bins;
· Update on dog enclosures in Clement Wilson Park, Falls Park and Orangefield Park will be provided at the next round of Area Working Groups.
3.0 Main Report
3.1 At the Council meeting on 4 September 2023 officers were asked if it would be possible to have an incremental increase for the Fixed Penalty Notice fines for repeat offenders. Officers have consulted with Legal Services and there is no provision within the legislation to allow for incremental increases to fines.
3.2 There is provision within the legislation to pursue a case in court, rather than giving the alleged offender the opportunity to accept and pay a Fixed Penalty Notice fine. The maximum fine in court is £1000. Officers will always have regard to the option of prosecuting any repeat offender identified as part of the graduated approach to enforcement.
3.3 There is a substantial number of signs for dog fouling throughout the City and they are concentrated in areas that have been identified as hotspots. Most signs also contain information about the Fixed Penalty Notice fine for other offences including littering.
3.4 For Members’ information, if a change to the fine for the dog fouling Fixed Penalty Notice is introduced, Legal Services has confirmed there is no legislative requirement to amend all the signs immediately. A rolling programme would be sufficient and would not impact on our ability to take formal action should an individual fail to pay the fine.
3.5 The City Services team are considering best way to review signage and consider a budget and program of work for this.
3.6 Whilst some existing signs could be replaced within the existing Enforcement and Dog Warden Service budget on a rolling program, we recognize that there is a need to explore options to future proof any new signs and consider the best messaging. They may not refer to the level of the fine or as in other district council areas, they could refer to the maximum court fine of £1000. Appendix 1 contains details of our current references to an £80 fine.
Provision of Street Bins
3.7 Officers are currently completing work on a new tender for the provision of street bins and this will be in place from the 1st January 2024. In the interim officers in City Neighbourhood Services are pulling together information from our Quality monitoring team along with information from the customer hub. A future report will be brought to committee that identifies dog fouling hot spot areas. This report will also explore the feasibility/suitability of street bins in these areas and will provide options with regard to the type of bins and information on the costs of providing and emptying any new bins. Members are also asked to note that a quotation is in place that will allow the department to replace some street bins across this city between now and the date when the new tender becomes active.
3.8 At August committee members received an update on pilot Dog Enclosures in particular a previous decision by committee in 2019 to trial dog enclosures in Clement Wilson Park, Falls Park and Orangefield Park. Officers will update members on this further at the next round of Area Working groups.
3.9 CNS have ordered 4 new replacement FIDO machines and expects to take delivery of them in New Year. Each area manager will use information on dog fouling hot spots to inform the work programme for each vehicle.
Finance and Resource Implications
3.10 Costs to update / replace with newly designed signage will be factored into estimates process.
The cost of purchasing the new FIDO machines is included within current budget estimates.
There is currently no provision within existing estimates for the provision of dog enclosures in the three parks listed above.
The feasibility report on the provision of street bins will include the costs associated with the purchase, installation and emptying of the bins. This information will be presented to Committee at a later date.
Equality or Good Relations Implications/
Rural Needs Assessment
The Director of City Services provided the Members with a comprehensive update on the contents of the report.
A Member welcomed the update in respect of the Fido machines and stated that she would be keen to see them operational in the south of the city.
A further Member suggested it would be useful if the Members could link in with the Dog Wardens when they were on patrol to try and highlight the work that was ongoing in specific areas.
Following a query, the Director of Neighbourhood Services provided an update on the tender for the street bins.
The Director of City Services reminded the Members that the Committee also needed to consider the minute the of the meeting of 8th August which had been referred back to the Committee by the Council at its meeting on 4th September. They were reminded that the extract of this minute had been tabled at the People and Communities Committee at its meeting on 12th September and that it had been agreed that the minute from the 8th August Committee be deferred to enable officers to prepare a report on the various options available regarding fixed penalty fines.
The Committee was subsequently asked to reconsider the following decision, as taken at the 8th August meeting:
· to adopt Option 2 in respect of fixed penalty limits for dog fouling and dog fouling offences - to increase the fine to a maximum of £200, with a reduction of £100 if paid within 10 days as an incentive to pay the fixed penalty promptly;
· to not to apply any changes to littering offences at this time and noted that an update report would be submitted to committee in due course.
The 4 options, as tabled at the 8th August Committee were again presented to the Members for further consideration:
· Option 1 – no change;
· Option 2 – increase to a maximum of £200 with a reduction if paid within 10 days. Suggested reduction to £100 as an incentive to pay the fixed penalty promptly and avoid court action;
· Option 3 – increase but not to maximum with reduction if paid within 10 days. Could be anything from £90 - £190, with any level of reduction; and
· Option 4 – Consider applying any changes made to the fixed penalty limits for dog fouling offences to littering offences. The Council previously agreed to set the level of fixed penalty fine for littering at £80, reduced to £60 if paid within 10 days. There would be no additional signage costs as most signs include information about dog fouling and littering.
Following discussion, it was
Moved by Councillor Flynn,
Seconded by Councillor de Faoite,
That the Committee agrees to adopt Option 2 and Option 4 in respect of fixed penalty limits for dog fouling and dog fouling offences, to increase the fine to a maximum of £200, with a reduction of £100 if paid within 10 days as an incentive to pay the fixed penalty promptly and to also apply any changes made to the fixed penalty limits for dog fouling offences to littering offences.
On a vote, 7 Members voted for the proposal and 13 against and it was declared lost.
Moved by Councillor Flynn,
Seconded by Councillor de Faoite,
That the Committee agrees to adopt option 2.
Moved by Councillor M. Donnelly,
Seconded by Councillor R. Brooks,
That the Committee agrees to adopt option 1.
On a vote, 13 Members voted for the amendment and 7 against and it was declared carried.
Accordingly, the amendment in the name of Councillor M. Donnelly was put to the Committee as the substantive motion and agreed.
· noted the update on the issues raised at Council on 4th September 2023 in relation to fines and signage and agreed to adopt Option 1 in respect of fixed penalty limits for dog fouling and dog fouling offences – to not increase the fines;
· noted the update on New FIDO machines;
· noted that a further report would be submitted in due course in relation to a feasibility study on street bins, the use of stencilling at schools (to include a list of schools) and the provision of a list of hot spot areas for dog fouling;
· noted that an update on dog enclosures in Clement Wilson Park, Falls Park and Orangefield Park would be provided at the next round of Area Working Groups Meetings; and
· noted that officers would liaise directly with a Member regarding a possible dog enclosure at Ormeau Park.