Overview of Environmental Enforcement Contract
- Meeting of Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 30th January 2019 6.00 p.m. (Item 39.)
To receive a verbal presentation.
Mike Cockburn, Leader Commissioner – Environment, addressed the Committee to introduce an overview of the Environmental Enforcement Contract awarded to Kingdom (2018-2021). He explained that he was accompanied by Mr Michael Fisher, Legal Director at Kingdom who would also be providing a presentation.
The Lead Commissioner – Environment set out the long term journey to drive behaviour change as detailed within the Wirral Plan Pledge ‘to create an attractive environment for Wirral Residents and Visitors’. Background information was provided to Members and it was explained that Kingdom won the tender for Environmental Enforcement Contract after competing with two other companies. The three year contract commenced in August 2018 and included: littering, dog fouling, smoke free, skip permits and trade waste compliance. Members were reminded that the contract was subject to ‘call’ in’ which was facilitated and upheld by the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee in July 2018.
Members were advised by the Lead Commissioner that full delegation of the Council’s enforcement powers had been given to Kingdom with full compliance of the Council’s Enforcement Policy with a zero tolerance instruction. He informed the Committee that robust contract management framework, protocols, complaints and appeal processes are adhered to and that regular contract management meetings are being held.
Members were then informed that details of the Environmental Enforcement Contract (redacted), comprehensive set of FAQs and monthly performance reports are available on the Council’s website. Information was provided of fixed penalty notices issued in December 2018 detailing offences under age banding categories, demonstrating how the largest proportion of offences were committed by age group 20-49. Interactive maps were shown to detail litter and dog fouling fixed penalty notices (FPN’s) that had been issued in the last 36 months. Details of contract performance with regards to littering and dog fouling were also available to Members.
Details were then provided regarding income generation and Members were advised that Wirral Council retains income generated through court costs from prosecutions against offenders of environmental crime. Members then heard how over the past four years income generated had been re invested back into Environmental Improvement Programmes such as tackling ‘grot spots’, funding the ‘Love Wirral’ brand, litter bin provision and the ‘Love Where You Live’ volunteers support programme.
The Lead Commissioner set out current and ongoing operational issues and assured the Committee that allegations of misconduct made against Kingdom Officers are fully investigated. He further advised that Kingdom Officers are suffering from acts of violence, aggression and ridicule on a daily basis and these are subject to ongoing police and community safety investigations.
In response to questions by Members, Mike Cockburn advised that there are a number of campaigns groups and a heavy social media presence against the work of Kingdom Officers, particularly prevalent in Birkenhead Town Centre. He then then informed that the Council are contracted to still pay Kingdom if a fine is not paid. He further advised that fines should not be enforced for accidental littering and informed that no action is taken against minors who drop litter, but acknowledged that this remains a problem outside some local schools and colleges and work is ongoing alongside local schools to target this behaviour.
In response to comment from a Member regarding vulnerability of some adults, not only by reference to age but also with regards to their mental and physical health, the Committee heard that anyone can appeal on medical grounds if they are issued with a FPN. They were then advised that if the appeal is successful fines can be rescinded. A further comment was raised regarding the disproportionate number of FPN’s issued due to dog fouling as opposed to dropping cigarette butts and Mr Cockburn agreed that further work needs to be conducted to issue FPN’s for dog fouling. However dog fouling detection is difficult and optimum numbers of FPNs issued would run to several hundred maximum.
In response to a further comment, Members were advised that aside from enforcement, there are other initiatives within the Lead Commissioner’s remit including eco schools, the ‘Love Wirral;’ brand and community interaction.
A Member queried the ‘members’ enquiries reporting function’ and asked how many complaints regarding littering and dog fouling had been reported through the CRM system. Mr Cockburn advised that he would obtain this information and report back. Mr Cockburn also advised that he would report back on a question raised regarding proportion of payments to the Council and proportion of payments to Kingdom following issuing of a FPN.
Mr Michael Fisher, Legal Director at Kingdom then provided a presentation to provide Members with background details to the overall management of Kingdom. He advised on overall services provided and advised that Kingdom had been awarded contracts to thirty five Local Authorities and have a workforce of 200 across the LA’s. He explained that Officers combined conduct an average of 8,000 enforcement hours per week.
Mr Fisher provided details on team deployment and equipment provided to Officers including bodycams and mobile devices. He informed Members that bodycam equipment is not to film an offence but to capture the interaction between Officers and an offender following enforcement. He also provided details of intelligence and set out locations where FPN’s had been given within areas of Wirral. Offence types were categorised and it was reported that the majority of FPN’s (74.3%) had been issued for ‘LitterDep- Cigarette’ Data was then given of offences categorised into age, gender and ethnicity.
Mr Fisher then explained that in addition to Officers on patrol there is also an administrative member of staff who deals with prosecution files, FPN information, letters, complaint management and reports. Examples by screen shots were provided to Members detailing how issues are logged, dealt with and retained.
Members heard from Mr Fisher that Kingdom had recently entered into a partnership with ‘Clean Up Britain’ and had sponsored the ‘Now or Never’ Behavioural Change Project in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire in connection with Clean up Britain and will be a live test-bed incubator unit to research, identify and experiment with new ideas aimed at persuading people to stop dropping litter and use less plastic. He then informed that in 2019, Kingdom would be going out to the local communities to provide education in the prevention of litter.
Responding to comments by Members, Mr Fisher advised that DEFRA guidelines are followed and balanced alongside the policies of the Local Authority to which Kingdom carry out enforcement work for. He then advised that he would follow up a query from a Member about low levels of enforcement in Bidston and St James Ward despite litter dropping being evident.
Responding to further comments and questions, Mr Fisher informed that Officers are not currently advised to ask the offender their ethnicity, but rather to use their own discretion, he offered that if could be deemed to inappropriate the practice can be stopped forthwith. He informed that all Officers are paid an hourly rate above the living wage rate and payment is not linked to numbers of FPN’s issued. He agreed with Members that more proactive work needs to be undertaken to target dog fouling, both in terms of locations and times. He explained that targeted areas can be in response to intelligence.
In response to a question, Mr Fisher advised that he would provide details of Officer training modules and programmes and how Kingdom monitor their Officers to ensure that they are following guidelines. He informed the Committee that there is a training induction programme for new Officers with initial training lasting five days followed by a period of buddying up with experienced Officers and a twelve week probation period.
A Member suggested that an advocacy service be consulted with by Kingdom and worked alongside to address issues such as complaints against Officers as it was acknowledged that social media campaigns can be powerful and cause distress to individuals.
Comments were raised about vulnerability of adults, in relation to other factors aside from age and gender such as mental health and it was acknowledged and reiterated that any individual can appeal on health grounds.
In response to a question raised about the termination of the Enforcement Contract at Liverpool City Council, Members heard how this was due to a change of policy at Liverpool and that a clause in their contract stipulated that the Council could terminate the contract with sixty days notice. He then advised that a total of eleven Kingdom Officers are employed as part of the Wirral Council contract.
Comments were raised by a Member in relation to GDPR compliance with particular reference to the use and retention of body cam footage and Mr Fisher advised that he would seek further clarification on this matter with colleagues and report back. In addition, Mr Fisher agreed that Officers should not be following individuals who were not compliant in providing a name or address, however members of the public should be advised to give their name and address to officers and in not doing so they are committing a further offence if the police were involved in the matter.
A Member raised the issue of external regulation and asked for assurance that Kingdom is subject to external regulation and also enquired into trade union recognition by the company. In response, Members heard how the Council regulate through the use of the internal audit section and that Kingdom have a Standards Committee and fully engage with the Information Commissioner. Mr Fisher advised that he would report back regarding trade union involvement.
Resolved (13:1) That:-
(1) members of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee thank Kingdom and members of the public for their attendance;
(2) the discussion points be formulated from this meeting into a full report by Officers and be brought to the attention of the Cabinet; and
(3) this Overview and Scrutiny Committee continue to monitor performance of Kingdom throughout the duration of the contract.