Flintshire Councillors agree to bin controversial litter enforcement firm Kingdom by end of the year
A controversial firm will no longer be able to issue littering fines in Flintshire after councillors voted to end its contract.
Kingdom Services has handed out more than 7,600 fixed penalty notices in the county during the last two years as part of a trial to tackle dog fouling and littering.
However, Flintshire Council’s cabinet has now decided to stop using the company from the end of December after a strong backlash from some members of the public, who accused enforcement officers of being ‘heavy handed’.
It comes after scrutiny committee members also highlight concerns over the firm’s concentration on dropped cigarettes, with more than 7,000 fines given for that offence compared to just 111 for dog fouling.
Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for streetscene and countryside, recommended that the contract be binned and the service brought in house.
She said: “The publicity campaign against the existing supplier has grown significantly and environment overview and scrutiny subsequently requested an update report on the arrangement, which was presented to the committee in June 2018.
“The scrutiny committee recommended that the contracted arrangement with Kingdom should end and that all enforcement activity should in future be carried out by a direct delivery service model.
“Despite the fact that the vast majority of fixed penalty notice’s issued by the organisation on behalf of the council have been paid and uncontested, there has been a number of high profile cases recently where the circumstances behind the issuing of tickets has been contentious.
“These small number of cases are undermining the reputation of the both the company and the authority and the arrangement is now being seen as ‘heavy handed’ by many people.”
She added that a number of town councils had requested that Kingdom are not allowed to carry out enforcement activities in their own areas.
Deputy leader of the council Bernie Attridge said he didn’t want the decision shto be seen as evidence of bowing to public opinion.
He said: “As the cabinet member who introduced this a couple of years ago and the issue on zero tolerance was supported unanimously by scrutiny and ourselves, as there was nothing worse than the annual report from Keep Britain Tidy coming in and Flintshire Council was always bottom.
“What has become apparent since we adopted this approach is that town centres are much better than they were. I don’t want this to be seen as us caving in to people regarding issues with this specific company.”
However, cabinet member Ian Roberts accused Kingdom of picking ‘easy targets’.
He said: “As a company, it’s clear from the figures that they’re focused on one particular figure.
“As someone who walks dog along the Flint Coast Path, the biggest issue is not litter or cigarettes, it’s dog fouling and I’ve never seen a single officer there.
“Considering Flint represents a tenth of the population of the county, it actually accounts for a quarter of all fines issued.
“Mold is much busier than Flint, particularly on market day, but it’s targeting the easy areas
“I hope whatever comes back has far more of an education aspect about it. I’m sorry, but this is zero tolerance to a particular section of the community, while other sections get off virtually scot free.”
The decision comes after executive board members in Wrexham voted against a motion by Plaid Cymru councillors to end their contract with the company.
Flintshire Council leader Aaron Shotton revealed that informal talks had been held with councillors at the neighbouring authority though about the possibility of a new regional service to handle littering fines.
He said: “As a council we pride ourselves on providing services in-house.
I support the scrutiny committee recommendations that we do end the contract with Kingdom, but it’s important that we work at pace as a council with the other six authorities.
“I’ve already had an informal discussion on a political level with colleagues in Wrexham particularly and it’s important that urgency is put into this matter.”
A further report will be presented to cabinet members in September with option for how fines will be handed out in future.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com