Mosquito box sparks storm

RULING Lib Dems on Sheffield Council have been accused of a split over the use of mosquito devices to deter anti-social youths from gathering.

Opposition Labour councillors have highlighted an apparent division between the council's cabinet, which approved a policy discouraging their use and Lib Dem licensing board chairman Coun Clive Skelton, who has spoken in favour of the devices.

The policy states mosquitos, which emit a high-pitched noise only audible to under 25s, should not be used because they are indiscriminate and not enough work has been done to determine whether they pose a risk to children and young people's health.

But Coun Skelton, whose board made installation of mosquitos part of the licensing conditions for seven premises, has said he believes they do work, provided they can be turned on only when troublesome young people have gathered.

Now Labour has accused the Lib Dems of showing a "damaging split" between a senior councillor and the party's leadership.

Coun Skelton said: "We have authorised mosquito devices at seven locations and they have also been installed at two other places.

"The ones we have encouraged on the licensing board are ones activated by the licence holder at a time when a group has gathered rather than used at all times indiscriminately.

"I think they are a tool in the armour in the fight against anti-social behaviour. I have no problem with the cabinet passing a policy against them - they are saying they do not want them to be used unfairly.

"I do not think me giving my view, as the only person on the council who has sanctioned their use, shows a split in the party.

"If I ever heard of any damage to young people from them, I would be the first to campaign against their use."

Labour group leader Coun Julie Dore said: "The Lib Dems are completely divided on this issue.

"How can Sheffield people have confidence in their ability to run the city when a senior Lib Dem who has supported many Mosquito devices, is completely opposed to their decision to ban them?"

Labour housing spokesman Coun Chris Weldon said: "We share concerns mosquito devices can indiscriminately affect children, young people and babies.

"However, Labour is absolutely committed to tackling anti-social behaviour as we are all too aware of the impact that it can have on the lives of people who experience it.

"We recognise these devices have helped to tackle anti-social behaviour in certain areas, and would therefore not call for an outright ban. But we think it's important they are effectively targeted so they are only used at appropriate times and in appropriate places - that's why we feel that they must be regulated.

"This will ensure they target anti-social behaviour."

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