Cuts in Park Rangers & Envirocrime Prevention Officers

by Nigel Bakhai on 1 February, 2011

Please find below the text of my speech to the Ealing Council meeting in February 2011 regarding the proposed cuts in numbers of Park Ranger and Envirocrime Prevention officers.

Mr Mayor. I would like to second Cllr Malcolm’s amendment.

Like many of my constituents who represented local groups such as the Brent River and Canal Society, Hanwell Community Forum and Ealing Friends of the Earth at the Cabinet meeting in December, I am extremely concerned about the proposed cuts to the numbers of Park rangers and Envirocrime Prevention officers.

Ealing’s parks and open spaces are one of its greatest assets.

However, the Park Ranger is treated like a Cinderella service in the council and both its budget and staff numbers have been cut by successive councils –let us not forget the last Tory administration are not without blame for reducing staffing levels and closing ranger bases.

The introduction of a specialist biodiversity team is welcome. However, the proposed reduction in park ranger numbers will potentially have a damaging effect on our parks and on the public’s perception as well as usage.  By reducing the number of rangers patrolling our open spaces from 20 to 6 it will undoubtedly lead to more litter, more dog fouling, and more anti-social behaviour.

The recent Cabinet decision to ‘reinstate’ two rangers is welcome but inadequate. The proposed cuts to the rangers is still far greater than cuts across the council as a whole and, front phased so their impact is almost immediate,

At the same time I am concerned about plans to reduce the number of Envirocrime Prevention officers who deal with issues like fly tipping and Illegal Street trading in the borough.

As a result of these changes, the number of ward based Envirocrime officers will be reduced from 20 down to 11 which will mean that going forward most will have to cover two wards instead of one.  The Council’s reasoning is that on average each officer received just one customer enquiry or service request per day so the council feels the need to add to their workloads.

However, a recent report on the work undertaken by the Envirocrime Prevention officer in my ward of Elthorne ward over the last three months shows their value in dealing with environmental issues in the local area.

Just as a sample of the work, the officer conducted 37 Waste/ Refuse Investigations including a successful prosecution for fly-tipping, and took action on 7 abandoned vehicles, 12 untaxed vehicles and dealt with 8 Street Trading issues.

My concern is that our Envirocrime officer in Elthorne is not only currently dealing with more requests than the Council claims, but that it will be difficult to maintain his excellent success rate in clearing up these issues if he or his replacement is covering two wards which will only result in more fly tipping and environmental issues.

We all accept the need for budget savings in the current economic climate but we call on the portfolio holder to rethink his decision to slash the numbers of Envirocrime officers and Park Rangers.

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