Jun 24 2013

Guest Post: Harrow Council’s Mess of Dog Poo Bins

mans_headWe always welcome guest posts by our readers, and we publish them in full generally, only removing bits that’ll get us into trouble. Today’s Guest Post comes from Murray, on the subject of Dog Poo Bins.

Friday’s announcement to reverse the scrapping of Harrow dog bins is a very welcome one, and thanks are due to the local press and www .iHarrow.com for sharing the Roxbourne Park dog walkers concerns. Thanks to everyone else who stood up or petitioned and said “enough is enough”.

Thanks even to the children of Pinner’s West Lodge school who visited the Civic Centre as the campaign took off. Some children were miffed because the Civic Centre wasn’t a patch on last year’s trip to the London Eye but the subject of Dog poo bins came up and it appears that amongst their hosts coughing and feet shuffling the young visitors attracted a lame explanation that the Council “didn’t like upsetting people”. Hmmm.

Not that there is any chance of the Council appearing on Mastermind, but (if they could) one might muse that such a skill would be the specialist subject.

Returning to the plot – what have we learned about the Council from this sorry episode?

It was never about a desperate need to save money – as pointed out by Michael in Hatch End  who emailed labourputscrapbackinharrow@gmail.com  and pointed out that the daily cost of Dog poo bins across the borough was £96 – and following Harrow Council’s last year’s £11,000,000 underspend, we learn that the Council is about to put £1,000,000 on deposit and “invest” (spend) the best part of £5,000,000 from the underspend to produce further savings in the future.

If it’s not about money, it’s not about health either. One Council justification for the for the dog-poo bin removals was quoted as “Dog waste is not classed as toxic and does not present any health risks to the community”.  So that’s all right then and on the basis of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander – perhaps justification enough for further cost savings by removing all the hand-washing facilities in the Civic Centre. We’ll start with the Leader’s washroom.

It doesn’t appear to be about a demonstration of the intellectual rigour or a level of common sense that might be expected of those in high office. A Council statement proclaiming that there were ‘sufficient rubbish (litter) bins to accommodate dog poo and general rubbish’ was never going to hold water with a change to weekly emptying. Tell that one to the Marines – or better still, tell it to Norma who lives near Headstone Manor and who also emailed labourputscrapbackinharrow@gmail.com  raging that: “l walk my dog daily in Headstone Manor recreation ground& since the (poo) bins have gone the litter bins are overflowing especially the one at the Parkside Way entrance; these bins have NOT been emptied for at least 4 days so I suppose the council are saving money on that also. We pay our council tax to ensure that our environment is kept clean & safe for everyone clearly the council do not share this belief.”

Norma will also know that much of the waste in the parks in take-away wrappings and scraps and that food scraps left around will encourage foxes and rats. Perhaps, the council need to tell us what plans are in place to control any rodent and fox population explosion as there will be more  grub lying around for days now that the litter bins are being emptied weekly.

If park users can use their smartphones to send pictures of Park rubbish (with date and time) to labourputscrapbackinharrow@gmail.com we will endeavour to hold the Council to account in future. A monthly award and annual calendar are possibilities and given the change to weekly litter collection, it’s not only the rats that should find rich pickings.

We’ll certainly share the results with those bodies who issue the Green Park awards – the bodies (it seems) that the Council are more anxious to appease than Harrow Residents as the 7 parks that qualify for Green Park awards get better maintenance. By the way, the ones that don’t qualify for the awards aren’t Parks anymore – they have been downgraded to Parkland. Simples.

The Conservative group complain that the independent Labour is not sharing or explaining their plans.  Any sneaky behind closed doors behaviour by any Council risks being branded as disrespectful and arguably breaks a covenant with residents who have reasonable expectations about how their local lives will be managed.
The council have been steadily trashing our environment and green spaces for some time with the continual down-grading of maintenance now leading to annual grass mowing for some (sorry; the new lexicon is annual forage cut = haymaking).  The naming of parks not to be secured at night needs stating.  Drug-dealing in Roxbourne Park Car Park can be remembered from the 1990s and no-one wants to see that returning because of Council false economies.

The fact is, Harrow residents are reasonably entitled to minimum standards in the maintenance of their local environment – the eruption of anger of the dog-poo bins scrapping is an example of what is unacceptable.  Residents should be reasonably entitled to a park safe for children to play their games and ride their bikes in without being stung by nettles; a clean park with no walking through trash; a park safe for families to picnic and a park safe for pensioners to be able to stroll in without falling on muddy paths has to be a given.

Parks and open spaces where the predominant fauna is now Nettle, Thistle, Cow Parsley, and Ivy all framed against rolling banks of Bramble because the Council decided to stop cutting the grass are beyond the pale.
The experience shared by 4Democracy in a recent blog http://www.iharrow.com/council/vaughan-school-expansion-before-and-after/ is a further example of local residents left feeling that they have been treated with disdain, treated unfairly and perhaps they and their concerns don’t count.

The recent shame surrounding the Care Quality Commission, Mid Staffordshire hospitals and others are prime examples of organisations that seem to have been consumed by their own importance and appear to have become self-serving losing sight of a primary responsibility towards their constituencies.

Responsibility, sound judgement, openness, common sense and a focus on the customer are wonderful virtues for any organisation. Fresh elections on the horizon – a fact mentioned by petitioners – will be an opportunity for the voters of Harrow to use such yardsticks to pass judgement on the recent shenanigans.

According to the old adage, there is ‘nothing like a hanging to concentrate the mind’ and  we can only wait to see if many of the Public realm cuts – known and unknown – are either abandoned or restored as a measure to start rebuilding the trust and covenant with Harrow residents.

And should the Independent Labour group start to demonstrate any Taliban tendencies of working in the shadows and not coming clean we trust the Conservative group will tell them to sod off and stand back and let the Labour group takeover – they did win the last election. And Labour should do themselves a favour by not behaving like members of the flat earth society and think that spouting “Tory led coalition” with every breath is going to convince anyone. After all, Labour might still be in control had they taken a knife out of the Ken Livingston inspired book “How to become Leader”. Inside they would have noticed that rule 1 is hold your bloody coup the day after the election. The day when no one is looking.


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