NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Nov 21st, 2018.
Flintshire Council is set to expand its in-house litter enforcement team in the wake of the departure of a controversial private firm.
The authority’s cabinet voted to end its relationship with Kingdom Services in July after a strong public backlash which saw its staff accused of taking a ‘heavy-handed’ approach.
However, rather than wait for its contract to expire in December, the Merseyside-based company served notice and left the county in August.
In the immediate aftermath, the council’s own staff took on responsibility for handing out fines for littering and dog fouling.
Now it has outlined proposals to increase the number of enforcement officers it employs from seven to at least nine.
A cost of £60,000 has been attached to the plans, but the authority believes it can recover half of that through the revenue generated by fixed penalty notices.
In a report, Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for Streetscene and countryside, said a ‘zero-tolerance’ stance against littering would still be maintained, but with more focus on working with the community.
She said: “Clear guidelines will be issued to officers to specify the principles on which the service will operate.
“An improvement in the relationship between communities and the enforcement service will be formed, officers will be required to attend local environmental visual audits to focus and target enforcement around the concerns and needs of the local community.
“The focus of the previous business partner was to concentrate predominantly on the enforcement of littering offences.
“The need to continue enforcing against this behaviour has been identified, however the authorities in-house officers will be responsible for a number of other enforcement activities, and the level of presence for littering offences alone cannot be maintained, even with the enhanced number of officers.
“Officers will be empowered to issue a fixed penalty notice should they witness any littering thus maintaining the ‘zero tolerance’ principles in this area.”
In the long-term, the council is looking at the possibility of working with other local authorities to create a regional enforcement team.
Cllr Thomas said the in-house team being used in the meantime was likely to attract less criticism than Kingdom.
However, she also highlighted concerns over recruitment and HR issues.
She said: “The confrontational aspect of the role could make it difficult to recruit and retain officers.
“There are clear differences with managing a contract with a private partner and managing a contract of employment, with leave and sickness absences needing to be covered.
“Maintaining a consistent presence throughout may prove problematic.”
Members of the council’s environment scrutiny committee will be asked to support increasing the in-house team at a meeting on Tuesday (DEL 27 NOVEMBER 2018).
They are also being recommended to back to allow officers to start discussions with neighbouring authorities.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter
Picture: Canterbury City Council