Mansfield District Council has responded to criticisms of its services raised in a commentary article in last week’s Mansfield Chad.
The Chad was critical of the behaviour of political parties connected to Mansfield District Council and suggested councillors should spend more time addressing issues in their areas rather than trying to score political points over each other.
Specifically the article mentioned problems with:
* Empty shops outnumbering open shops;
* Town centre “falling by the wayside”;
* Grass cutting not being carried out;
* Dog fouling in parks;
* Housing being built on green spaces;
* Discarded needles in open spaces;
* Destitute residents;
* “Rubbish” street lighting.
Dealing with these issues, point by point:
Empty shops outnumbering open shops
The most recent figures for the number of empty shops in Mansfield town centre for the September quarter showed that of 546 units, 90 are vacant. This clearly shows there are more open shops in Mansfield than empty ones.
Town centre regeneration – is Mansfield ‘falling by the wayside’?
Regeneration is one of the council’s five top priorities for action. The council is working closely with Mansfield BID on the Healthy High Street Campaign, which aims to bring the public and private sector together to improve the town centre. We are looking at ways to fill vacant shops, and make empty shops look attractive while they are vacant. The council also has grants available to help businesses looking to move into empty shops or improve their shop fronts. Recently, as part of the Mayor’s manifesto, parking charges were reduced in an effort to increase the number of people coming into the town centre. In addition, efforts are made to ensure the town looks attractive. The district won the City category in this year’s East Midlands in Bloom awards. This is hardly evidence that Mansfield is “falling by the wayside”.
The council cuts grass only on land that it owns or which it is contracted to maintain on behalf of another agency. In the Mansfield area, MDC is contracted to cut grass verges owned by Nottinghamshire County Council - to its specifications. On this and its own land, MDC mows up to 16 times a year.
Dog fouling in parks
The council will fine owners who do not pick up after their pets and it also provides free poop scoop bags for dog owners and regularly runs education campaigns and initiatives to encourage people to be responsible dog owners. It will respond to complaints about dog fouling and remove the waste but it will also try to use intelligence to target dog fouling hotspots to try to catch offending owners.These activities go beyond what the council is obliged to provide in its dog control service and funded as part of the council’s commitment to protecting the environment and reducing crime, both of which are among the authority’s five key priorities.
The council is committed to apprehending and prosecuting fly-tippers on public land as part of its commitment to try to reduce crime in the district. The council tries to educate residents and businesses about their own legal duty of care in the disposal of rubbish and in using the services of accredited waste disposers. It also targets campaigns at fly-tipping and litter hotspots to try to catch and deter offenders.
Housing is also one of the council’s five key priorities. There have been a number of council-led housing projects recently that have been carried out on brownfield sites in the district, including the Poppy Fields development and the new social housing being built off Pye Avenue. There is also a major project planned for 54 homes on the former Mansfield General Hospital site. The council recognises the urgent, and national need for more new homes. Over the next four years it aims to provide the opportunity for 1,600 homes to be built in the district. Some of these, inevitably, will be on greenfield sites but it would be unrealistic to expect all of these homes to be built on brownfield sites.
The council has an emergency street cleaning team, which aims to respond to reports of discarded needles on public land within 24 hours. Members of the public can report needles and other urgent waste issues to this team by calling the council on 01623 463463 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, Neighbourhood Wardens and many other members of staff are trained in how to safely pick up and dispose of needles if they come across them.
Supporting vulnerable people is also one of those five priorities. The council is one of few authorities in Nottinghamshire that employs a fully trained welfare rights officer. The officer is part of the council’s housing team who have ensured that 65 per cent of its clients have avoided being made homeless. In addition, the council has initiatives that aim to tackle fuel poverty and works with local GPs to identify and support people with long term health conditions whose health could be made worse by living in a cold home.
This service is the responsibility of Nottinghamshire County Council and any comments about this should be directed at the relevant authority. As a council, we pass on any complaints and comments we receive from the public about street lights.
Kate Allsop, Mansfield executive mayor, said: “The Chad’s criticisms of the services provided by, and the problems faced by Mansfield District Council don’t bear up to serious scrutiny - many of the points raised were incorrect.
“We are totally committed to trying to improve Mansfield in all sorts of ways. We want people here to have a better quality of life and this remains our number one priority.
“Just like any other similar town in Britain, we know there are issues here. But we are definitely not resting on our laurels in trying to do something constructive about them.”