‘Stray dog tax’ increase scrapped

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The controversial proposal by Conservative members of Pendle Council to introduce a 39 per cent increase in the fees charged to the owners of stray dogs has been scrapped.

The Tory members of the Executive had voted through the rise from £36 to £100 at their meeting in September – but Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors had the matter “called in” for further discussion,

And at last night’s meeting of the Executive, it was agreed that the increase – due to come into force on January 1st – would not now go ahead.

Instead, it will be considered along with a whole raft of issues concerning dogs by a specially-drawn up working group comprising two Liberal Democrat and two Conservative councillors.

This follows discussions on two separate agenda items on dog-related matters.

On the question of the charge, Executive member for finance Coun. Tommy Cooney, who had first suggested the increase, said he has happy to defer the matter to let the working group look into the matter.

“We have no need to rush. I am happy to let the working group go through the process and we can review it at a later stage.

“We have one chance to get it right and it is important that we do that.”

Labour group leader Coun. Mohammed Iqbal said rather than deferral, the proposal should be withdrawn altogether.

And Liberal Democrat Coun. David Whipp said that the proposal could have led to more dogs being left in kennels, resulting in increased costs to the council.

After the meeting, Coun. Iqbal issued a statement saying: “ I want to dedicate this forced u-turn by the Tory councillors to people power in Pendle.

“This was a rabbit out of a hat tactic last month by the Tory party, However, they have tonight been forced to back down and withdraw this increase. They should realise that we will not stand by and let them introduce back door taxes against the wishes of people.”

l The working group will also consider new provisions available to it under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act which will come into force in three years’ time.

Coun. Tony Greaves said: “This is the right time to do this because there are a whole series of bylaws and rules relating to the control and management of dogs which vary from place to place and which might not be enforceable now.”

Coun. David Whipp recalled that when he was first elected as a councillor in 1980, he had proposed the “innovative step” of introducing of dog waste bins, poop scoops and waste bags to the then Environmental Health Committee and was !laughed out of court”.

“Thirty-four years later, we have hundreds of bins, collect thousands of tons of dog waste and give out millions of bags a year,” he said.

Things which the working group will look at include the possible banning of dogs from children’s play areas and sports facilities, making it compulsory for dogs to be on leads in parks or banning them from certain parts of parks and introducing levels of control of dogs in town centres and certain roads.