ONLY a handful of fines have been handed out to ‘nuisance’ street drinkers and inconsiderate dog owners – despite the council looking to give itself extra powers to hand out more punishments. 

Sandwell Council is looking to extend its powers to fine inconsiderate dog owners for failing to pick up their pet’s mess but these powers could soon be extended to those unable to show they have a poo bag or other “receptacle” to clean it up.

But despite the move, the council has only handed out 13 fines in the last three years under current public space protection orders (PSPOs) – saying it chooses to use its powers to educate rather than punish.

If the powers are widened and extended by councillors, a ban on fires and BBQs in parks and other public spaces would also come into force with those ignoring the ban also facing fines. The new orders would also make it an offence to let dogs into children’s play areas.

The move was discussed by Sandwell Council’s safer neighbourhoods and active communities scrutiny board where staff revealed the number of fines.

Smethwick councillor Ashley Lewis said he was concerned the council would be extending the powers without having enough people to enforce them.

“Inadvertently we could be creating more work for yourselves without having the capacity,” he said.

The council’s community safety manager Tessa Mitchell told councillors: “We’re not using [the orders] as a ‘stick’. We’ve got there as a power if we have to use it… but we’re trying really hard to do that education and engagement role. 

The council admitted it ‘did not always have the resources to carry [enforcement] out’ and it was taking a less heavy hand with wrongdoers.

Anti-social behaviour team manager Andy Clarke, who admitted the council did not always have the resources to hand out fines, added: “There’s not an obligation to enforce, it’s just part of a wider toolkit. A lot of what we are focusing on is education.”

The council can already fine dog owners £100 for failing to pick up their dog’s mess with a maximum penalty of £1,000 if the case went to court.

There is also already a borough-wide ban which gives powers to the council and police to tell people to stop drinking in public places and confiscate alcohol if they are concerned about anti-social behaviour. Failing to do so could land offenders with a maximum fine of £500.

The public space protection orders last for three years before they have to be renewed. The council’s bans on dog fouling and street drinking came into force in 2017 and are up for renewal with a third order on BBQs and fires in public spaces set to be assessed by councillors.

The council said it wanted to bring in the new ban following a spate of fires on public land across Sandwell in 2022 – particularly at Sandwell Valley Country Park.

A final decision will be made by Sandwell Council’s cabinet next month and if approved, the PSPO would begin in March.