Select Committee on Committee on the London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence

Evidence before the Committee (Questions 500-519)


500.  How do you think it is going to be possible to impose the right sort of level of professionalism in all of the various London boroughs which seek or choose to adopt these provisions if they are enacted?

(Mr Stratton) I believe that as the problem hits other local authorities, they will take on the staff required to implement this aspect and there is one local authority which I believe is about to have a third dog control officer. Most have one and some have two. Many of the dog control officers know our team. We do train some of them. I believe that many of them will come to us for the necessary training in order to implement this aspect or certainly come to us for guidance and advice.

501.  Can I ask in relation to these conditions which are set out in sub-paragraph (2) about the degree to which you took expert advice in defining what those conditions were, the degree to which you consulted with experts and the degree to which you involved other equivalent units in other boroughs in London other than your own?

(Mr Stratton) The code of conduct that we initially produced was a code of conduct that we discussed with 16 professional dog-walkers and they all agreed to it. This, if you like, is a consolidation of that. This is a resumé of what we believe is right, but couched, I suppose, in legal terms. This has the support of our dog control officers and of course I would say this, would I not, but I believe that our dog control officers are probably as good as, if not better than, any other in London. It is the largest group and many other boroughs come to us for help, guidance and advice rather than the other way around.

502.  You will agree that these days in relation to enacting legislation which affects the public, it is generally the case that wider consultation is now under way. Is that not the case, consultation which embraces the views of various experts who give advice as to the relevant provisions?

(Mr Stratton) We have consulted with our own professional dog-walkers and there are 16, we have consulted with our own professional dog control officers, we have consulted with our own professional parks police, dog controllers who have police dogs ----

503.  Have you consulted any independent expert body as to the nature of these conditions and the way in which they may actually achieve what it is you are seeking to achieve?

(Mr Stratton) No, we have not, because I believe that these are the conditions that we want and that we can enforce within certainly our borough and we can help other people to do exactly the same.

504.  Can I take you to subsection (3), please, and there is provision there, is there not, for a council to charge a reasonable fee for consent under the section? Do you have any idea as to what that fee might be and can you also confirm that of course it would be payable by private individuals as well as professional dog-walkers?

(Mr Stratton) The fee is likely to be in the region of £20/25 to perhaps, at the top end, £40 currently because I think it would probably take about an hour of one of our dog control officer's time to go through the process and issue the licence and then administer it, so we would just cover our costs. Sorry, I cannot recall the second part of your question.

505.  I just wanted you to confirm that that would be a fee payable by private individuals as well as professional dog-walkers.

(Mr Stratton) Well, I cannot talk for other boroughs. I think in Wandsworth it would be our members' wish not to charge residents for their own dogs.

506.  But of course that might not be the policy adopted by other boroughs.

(Mr Stratton) No.

507.  Can you also explain to me how it is intended to work in a situation where an open space or a park crosses two borough constituencies?

(Mr Stratton) The parks and the open spaces are all administered by a single borough or each park and open space is administered by a single borough, so if a line goes through the centre, the administration, and that includes the laws and the by-laws, belongs to one borough or the other, not joint ownership.

508.  So would there be a separate fee in relation to someone, if you like, multiple dog-walking in two boroughs?

(Mr Stratton) Clapham Common is divided pretty well equally down the centre between Lambeth on the one side and Wandsworth on the other. We have no jurisdiction and we would have no right to impose this in Clapham Common. That would not be our right.

509.  But someone who wished to take their dog across the boundary line, if I can put it like that, would, it seems likely, be subject to getting two consents.

(Mr Stratton) No, because we have no rights on Clapham Common, so the law of Lambeth, the by-laws in Lambeth, would apply on Clapham Common, not the by-laws of Wandsworth. Our parks police, our dog control officers have no jurisdiction in Clapham Common even though the boundary line goes right through the middle.

510.  Does that not require then an identical form of conditioning and consent in relation to multiple dog-walkers who walk across parks that straddle that administrative boundary, ie, you would be subject to one set of conditions in one borough and if you crossed over with your dogs into another you might be subject to a different set of controls?

(Mr Stratton) No, what I am trying to explain is that the controls, and the example I used is Clapham Common, all the controls of Clapham Common are the responsibility and the jurisdiction of Lambeth and we have none. If Lambeth want to have an event on a part of Clapham Common which is within our borough, we have no right to say, "You can't have it". If members want to take packs of dogs right across Clapham Common, even if this was imposed within Wandsworth, that would not be our right to prevent them. Lambeth has the run, if you like, and rules Clapham Common and we do not. We have no jurisdiction there, we have no influence there, we do not litter-pick there and any complaint that comes from our residents or any other resident goes to Lambeth and not to us.

511.  What about other parks?

(Mr Stratton) That is the same in parks and open spaces. We had a similar arrangement in Tooting where part of Tooting did not belong to us but our by-laws ran right across Tooting Common and our parks police and our dog control officers and other council officers have jurisdiction over all parts of Tooting Bec Common.

512.  Therefore people would only be required, if indeed that were a condition, to carry one consent for production to an officer or a constable as provided for in Subsection 2(c). Is that right?

(Mr Stratton) No, it is not. If Wandsworth imposes this in Wandsworth it applies on those parks and open spaces that we control and even though the boundary might go down the middle of Clapham Common we have no control over Clapham Common, there is no part of Clapham Common that belongs to Wandsworth. There are boundaries that run down between local authorities, down the middle of a street. Our by-laws and our jurisdiction is on one side of the street and the other is on the other side of the street.

513.  CHAIRMAN: Mr Stratton, if I have a multiple dog-walking licence to walk on Clapham I will have to pay a fee. Will I have to pay another fee if I want to walk in Battersea, which is another council? Will we have to pay two fees, or if we pay one fee will we be able to roam throughout London as long as we take our certificate with us?

(Mr Stratton) No.

514.  So each borough will have its separate fee?

(Mr Stratton) Correct.

515.  CHAIRMAN: I think that is the point.

516.  MR CLARKSON: Can I just make it absolutely clear, so there is no doubt about it, that of course the control point is the test of designation under Subsection 14(7): "A Borough Council may designate for the purposes of this Section, in accordance with Schedule 2, any public open space under their control." So it would be Lambeth designating Clapham Common, not Wandsworth.

517.  MR MUNDY: Can I take you to sub-paragraph 5(c). "One of the grounds upon which a council may withhold consent or revoke a consent is that there is already a sufficiency of persons to whom consent has been given under this Section for carrying out, in the designated place, the activity in respect of which the consent is requested." I think that is right.

(Mr Stratton) That is correct.

518.  Can you please confirm to me that, again, that might have happened, not necessarily in your borough but in other boroughs, to a private owner? There is a designated place. It might not be very big, it might have quite a limited quota of consents available. Somebody coming along may simply be refused, may they not, under that provision, because they have missed the boat - the quota is complete?

(Mr Stratton) That is correct. However, you are differentiating, I think, between the private dog owner who wants to exercise his own dog and the professional dog-walker. I would only say to you that in local government the elected members are very sensitive to the residents and I think that they would almost in all boroughs - I am sure in all boroughs - be very sensitive about local residents not being allowed to take their dogs into their local park. Indeed, I think it would happen once and it would not happen again.

519.  Could you confirm to me that if somebody, even if they are assumed to be a professional dog-walker, was unable to get a licence because the quota is complete, what would they need to do?

(Mr Stratton) If a private dog owner wanted to walk - and they had a large number of dogs?

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