Labour Councillor Jenny Churchill was the only Councillor to speak in favour of a petition, signed by over 2000 residents, presented to the Council meeting of September 12th, seeking to amend Tory proposals to reduce the number of dogs that dog walkers could exercise in the Boroughs parks and green spaces. The Tory proposals, contained in newly revised Public Space Protection Orders, will mean that anyone walking more than four dogs at a time will need a licence.
Dog walkers had concerns over the small number of licences that will be available, a number which was plucked from the air by Tory and Libdem Councillors in a prior Regulatory Committee. This fact was conceded by the Cabinet Member for parks Cllr Fleming, but who was unwilling to increase the number.
Members of the public speaking in favour of the petition pointed out that in seven years the Council had only received four complaints regarding dog walkers exercising too many dogs, and suggested that the clampdown was excessive.
Jenny argued: “We all, not least the professional dog walkers themselves, see moving to a licenced system as a positive move. As always, however, the devil is in the detail. The number of licences that will be offered is unreasonably low: this will push qualified, professional walkers out of business. Also, licences will only be available to residents, which is unfair for those who have established their work here whilst living on the border of the borough. I don’t understand why more efforts were not made to come up with a system that took into account local need.”
The liberals joined forces with the Conservatives leaving Jenny as the lone voice of reason; her efforts were however appreciated, with one resident commenting:
“You have my complete respect and utmost thanks for what you did tonight. You were the only person who was unafraid to speak out for what was right.’