DISTRICT ENFORCEMENT UPDATE
To receive an update on District Enforcement.
Simon Dale introduced Warren Hodgson, Director, District Enforcement, who would be giving the presentation and answering any questions. Colin Buchanan, Head of Operations and Daniel Edwards, would also be present at the meeting to answer questions.
Mr John Webb, resident, asked what was the breakdown of the types of litter that had been collected? Warren Hodgson responded that he did not have the breakdown to hand but could inform the Panel that fixed penalty notices were issued for multiple amounts of litter that was found that had been dropped across the UK and the borough was cigarette litter. Warren Hodgson reported that 77% of litter dropped was cigarette litter, which was the lowest in the UK.
Mr John Webb asked why was there no table presented where quarter by quarter of litter collected could be compared? Simon Dale responded that it had only been a quarter so far and the pilot was in the second quarter now. Going through the pilot, the tables would be compiled.
Mr John Webb asked if it was known, how much volume in cubic meters of litter had been removed by the enforcement actions. Simon Dale advised that this was not known.
Mr John Webb asked if the activity of dog fouling was still part of the remit of DE and would it remain for the remainder of the pilot. Neil Walter, Parking Principal, informed the Panel that another team were in the process of putting together a Public Safety Protection Order for dog fouling. This would remain part of the DE’s remit but until the PSPO was finalised, DE could not enforce for dog fouling. Mr Webb asked for an explanation of why it was necessary to propose different rules of enforcement for dog fouling and unruly dogs in the recent consultation on protected spaces, when a different approach for enforcement for enforcement of dog fouling. This created a discriminatory element in favour of dog owners as they would get a warning before proceeding to enforcement. Neil Walter informed the Panel that he could not answer as he was not responsible for the PSPO. However, he was happy to take away and get a response to Mr Webb.
ACTION: Neil Walter to get response for Mr Webb
Mr Watts, public speaker, asked why do the DE target cigarette butts in the town centre? Warren Hodgson informed the Panel that the officers did not target cigarette butts but they did patrol areas. Mr Watts was advised that individual cases could not be discussed.
Mr Watts continued and asked that if it was the case that there were a lot of cigarette butts littered, why were there not more bins in place? Simon Dale informed the Panel that they could look into bin provision within the town centres.
ACTION: The provision of bins to be looked into in the town centres
Mr Watts suggested that maybe it was more about educating rather than fining.
Councillor Del Campo thanked Warren Hodgson. Councillor Del Campo raised one concern that she had about education, with relation to small businesses and regulation 35 which demanded for information being issued to businesses who might actually be just struggling with the administration burden at this time and having to produce two years’ worth of waste transfer notes within seven days, especially when some businesses were struggling to survive. Could a more helpful and supportive approach be taken with the businesses. Warren Hodgson commented that as a private company, they worked in line with the local authority rules so would do as the local authority wanted. Neil Walter added that they had asked DE to visit all businesses to ascertain what volume were actually adhering to the current rules in relation to their business waste. The vast majority were okay and were doing as required under current legislation. There were a number of businesses that were not and a number that thought the type of operation they were doing with their waste was acceptable. This was down to education which was why notices were given out to people. However, once the notice was given, if they were not able to provide evidence, it was relatively clear that they did not have the current contract in place to remove their waste, which is when a FPN would be issued. Currently, the information for 2020 was being requested. This was confirmed by Daniel Edwards, DE Operations Manager.
Councillor Del Campo continued and referring to a newspaper article from December, where an officer had no mask on, Councillor Del Campo asked if all officers now wore masks? Daniel Edwards responded that each officer has been told to wear a face covering in and outside a premise.
Councillor Del Campo suggested that monthly reporting of FPN data be provided to all members, so they were aware of what was happening in their ward. Warren Hodgson and Neil Walter were happy to provide this information to members who wanted it. Any members wanting this information could contact Neil Walter.
Finally, Councillor Del Campo commented that residents were asking why the fines were going to a private company and not to the borough to be used to fund litter related activities such as the community wardens. Councillor Del Campo suggested that a full review be carried out after the year.
Councillor G Jones commented on the main litter that he noticed being cigarette butts. Councillor G Jones asked if DE used covert cameras for fly tipping in hot spots areas. Warren Hodgson reported that currently no cameras were used. Officers investigated all complaints reported and any observations by the officers when patrolling. The officers would investigate and follow up on crucial evidence found at the site through a pace interview with the individuals. DE had looked into covert cameras but there were many policies that needed to be put in place to be able to do this. This could be investigated further if DE were awarded the contract after this year.
Councillor Price requested that as a panel she would like to receive the monthly data in order to see what the trends were, in order to scrutinise at panel. Councillor Price asked about more detail into the education program and how it was being carried out. Daniel Edwards commented that previously local authorities had arranged litter picking days with local communities. Funding had been provided for posters and leaflets. Already 500 stubby pouches had been handed out and another 500 were ready to hand out. This would continue throughout the pilot. Also a campaign across the UK was going to be launched to educate schools with a thirty minute presentation to year 11.
Councillor Price asked for clarification on why the dog fouling could not be covered at the start of the contract. Neil Walter explained to the Panel that at the beginning of the contract, a set of advertised FPN’s was on the website that the borough was already able to enforce and that included dog fouling. A Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) for dog fouling was being put together which would bring in the community wardens and lots of other people into play, not just DE. This was the reason it was stopped. The consultation for the PSPO was due to end in February 2021 and hopefully this would be fully enforceable shortly after that date and then DE and community wardens could get back to doing education and enforcement.
Councillor Price asked where DE found an area which had a high level of litter, would they report to the officers that would be clearing the litter up? Neil Walter reported that the vast majority of reports were reported to the council directly, normally with photos. Ward Councillors also directly reported many cases. This would be reported via a generic mailbox in Highways. This information would be sent to Neil Walter and DE, who would investigate and then the contractors would be notified to fully clear the area.
Councillor Price asked if it was on track to have local staff. Warren Hodgson reported that DE had found that it was very difficult for local staff to issue FPNs in the same area that they lived in. DE started a contract; local staff were employed. They would then leave. This had been pointed out at the start of the contract.
Councillor Price commented that when the contract was being considered for renewal, the Panel could have an input at that stage before a decision was made.
ACTION: Could this be included on the June Agenda
Councillor C Da Costa asked for clarification on whether the borough were operating under the wrong legislation for dog fouling that was currently being amended. Also, clarification was required on whether people were followed in order to catch them littering? Warren Hodgson responded that officers did not follow people, they patrolled areas and if they saw anyone dropping litter, they would put their camera on and approach them and issue an FPN. People would only be followed if they refused to give their details. Neil Walter responded to the dog fouling clarification and commented that dog fouling could be enforced either through a FPN or a PSPO. The council were using the FPN route but now wanted to change to the PSPO route where more than dog fouling was covered.
Councillor Davey thanked DE for increasing the emphasis on fly tipping. Councillor Davey confirmed that there was a procedure to follow when issuing FPN’s, if the procedure was not followed then the member of public could challenge the FPN. Warren Hodgson confirmed that this was correct and it would be investigated.
Councillor Singh commented that he had received a number of complaints from residents, was there a review on the number of bins provided for dog fouling. Simon Dale informed the Panel that there was no requirement for providing specific dog waste bins, only combined standard litter bins. Councillors could suggest a review to be undertaken. Councillor Singh asked if DE had considered using the online schooling to educate school kids? And finally, when this contract started, the borough were saying it was zero cost but there had been a huge amount of reputational damage in the national and local media. Councillor Singh asked how much it was costing the borough in officer time to deal with the complaints and challenges that were coming into RBWM. Neil Walter informed the Panel that any complaints that came into the borough were dealt with by him as part of his daily work, Neil Walter then liaised with DE to gain evidence and written statements and footage. There had been 19 formal complaints since the contract started. Three had gone to stage 2. The officer time was part of the daily role.
Councillor Singh asked what training was taken by officers to improve service? Warren Hodgson reported that DE was the only company that had a UK wide training team offering online training courses and a link to an on the ground training officer. Officers had monthly online training.
Councillor Del Campo pointed out that she was not aware that dog waste could be put in a normal waste bin. She felt that residents would not be aware of this too. Could this be advertised more through the Communications team to inform residents via the residents newsletter. Also could something be put in the members newsletter to inform Members that they could ask for a bin review in their ward.
ACTION: Simon Dale to follow on both Comms points
Councillor Cannon thanked DE Officers and council Officers for all their hard work.
Councillor Taylor asked for clarification and reassurance that Officers were explaining to shop owners what they were asking for in a way that people understood, especially if English was not their first language, with respect to waste disposal data. Daniel Edwards explained that he had been on the ground with officers. Officers did not leave the encounter until the person fully understood what the paperwork issued was and what needed to be produced. DE were happy to look into any particular cases.