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Geese are spoiling our parks - we need some action

MPs want to tackle seagull menace, but they should be looking at the wild geese too

A Tory MP from Devon has hit the headlines by securing a debate on the seagull menace after one stole his pal’s fish and chips.

MP Oliver Colvile wants action to deal with the gulls who can get pretty aggressive – often operating in gangs to steal fast food from innocent bystanders.

There was an investigation by Birmingham’s pest control department a few years back after a chip shop owner in the Jewellery Quarter complained that his customers were being dive-bombed by angry gulls as they left.

The diligent council officers looked at a range of measures – from a sniper on the rooftops, birds of prey, drugs, scarecrows, nest removal or even laser blasts to deter them. They eventually settled on an egg replacement scheme, switching healthy eggs in nests for decoys to stem the numbers, which despite moderate success was stopped a couple of years back due to lack of funds.

Despite this attention on the common gull there is, it could be argued, a bigger feathered menace out there – the Canada geese who seem to be taking over some of our parks.

Not only do they strip the grass away and deter other wildlife, but they are a major health hazard.

Taking a child for a walk in beauty spots like Swanhurst Park in Springfield, Sutton Park or Sandwell Valley is a huge health risk.

And not just because the geese swarm and aggressively peck at passers by.

You have to wade through a sea of their sticky repugnant bird mess or guano – and need to be armed with tissues and wipes to clean the vile stuff off shoes or – if a toddler stumbles – hands.

Birmingham councillor Habib Rehman is calling for a cull or after receiving complaints from park users – he is right to do so.

Give them a break

For a very, very cold Tuesday afternoon it was a pretty impressive turn-out for the Save Our Support protest in Victoria Square against £5 million cuts to the services for the homeless, disabled, people with mental health issues, addicts, care leavers and recovering offenders.

That there were so many of the service users there spoke volumes about how valued their services, which enable them to live semi-independently, are.

It is also a point well made that withdrawing this lower level support only plunges more people into crisis and ends up costing more in hospital admissions, emergency call outs, full residential care and bed and breakfast accommodation.

But one point made is just how exhausting this continued rounds of proposed cuts, protests and withdrawal is for the people involved.

Members of the Labour leadership were watching the protests from the Council House windows and would have been given food for thought. There’s still two weeks before the final budget vote and the unbelievably tardy Government has not even issued its final financial settlement – so perhaps there is some room for manoeuvre.

But one thing to consider was a message from service user Donna Daly who told the crowd she was fed up of having to justify her support and fight for he services year after year.

Whatever the outcome, the council bosses and the Government need to ensure that these vulnerable people do not have to go through all this again in a few months’ time.

U-turn is not weak if it's in the right direction

A number of senior Labour councillors have criticised the use of the term ‘U-turn’ in last week’s headlines over the cuts.

The fact is they proposed a set of cuts and after three months of lobbying, angry protests, petitions and meetings, found some extra funding to head them off.

As a result, the threat to services for vulnerable people, museums, parks and social services has been lessened – although not wiped out entirely.

This is good news – a council has listened to the complaints and tried to do something about it.

The word ‘U-turn’ in this context is not a negative.

Too often politicians, some of them seemingly intelligent people, stick to their guns with grim determination in the face of all available evidence just so they are not seen as weak or back-peddling.

But if you’re going the wrong way then a U-turn is the only sensible course of action.

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