Council clashes with PCC on off-road bikes

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 23:37

By Martyn Smith, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillor Laura Taylor-Childs

A row has blown up between Dudley Council and the police commissioner’s office over how to tackle illegal off-road motorbikes.

West Midlands Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil accused the authority of refusing to engage with him over a plan to introduce legal facilities for young people to ride the bikes.

Mr McNeil wrote to Dudley’s Conservative leaders outlining the idea, based on a scheme in Wigan called Bikemech, which he believes would bring ‘immense benefits’ to communities.

On February 23, Dudley’s cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Ruth Buttery, wrote back saying while she supported the aspiration, the council was not able to back the project because alternative provision cash for supporting and preventing young people being suspended from schools was already ‘more than allocated’.

Labour’s Mr McNeil said: “The only correspondence I have had from the council says they are not even willing to explore it because they don’t know how it is going to be funded.

“All I am asking is to convene a meeting and explore what’s possible. It’s going to happen quicker if they come round the table, if not the public are going to be let down for longer.”

The scheme would allow young people to obtain a qualification in motorcycle mechanics and be trained in riding off-road legally by a professional rider.

Young people who break the rules are excluded from the course, the Wigan project has 140 students and just one has been removed.

The course, which is recommended by the local authority as an alternative provider, costs schools £80 per day per student. Dudley’s leadership is critical of the PCC’s ideas for youth provision.

During a debate in full council, cabinet member for safer communities, Cllr Laura Taylor-Childs, said:

“We have had contact with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office on this however, so far, it seems this is another method of pushing financial burdens onto the local authority and avoiding his own responsibility for this issue.”

Cllr Taylor-Childs accused the PCC of avoiding a commitment to provide resources to police teams despite providing off-road bikes to officers.

She added: “These came with advice to police officers not to pursue in the majority of situations, rendering them almost entirely useless.”

Mr McNeil hit back, he said: “Police activity has resulted in a number of bikes being confiscated and a number of arrests. It is not the aim when they go out on bikes to end up in dangerous pursuits – it is a deterrent.

“Police always do pursuits in a risk-assessed way rather than off-the-cuff road chases where an innocent person might die.”

Police in Dudley have had some success in dealing with off-road bikers in Castle Hill Woods. Castle and Priory ward councillor, Cllr Karl Denning, said:

“At least seven bikes have gone so far, police councillors and residents are all working together.”

Cllr Denning added officers acting on intelligence use resources including off-road bikes, local knowledge from neighbourhood PCSOs and drones to coral offenders.

He added: “I would encourage the council to be more engaged with the assistant PCC and to look if we can get alternative provision either from the government or businesses looking to get apprentices.”

Tom McNeil said: “If it’s going to succeed it needs buy-in from the council. I really don’t care about party politics if we can make that happen.”


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