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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 14th March, 2012

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Visible and Building Services

 

Dog Fouling and Litter Enforcement - XFOR (Local Authority Support Ltd.) Environmental Enforcement Services

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To seek the authority of Cabinet to enter into a formal agreement with a private security company to undertake enforcement duties in the Vale of Glamorgan, aimed at reducing incidence of litter and dog fouling.

Recommendations

1.             That Cabinet give authority to waive contract standing orders to permit the appointment of XFOR

2.             That the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Visible and Building Services, be authorised to enter into a formal agreement with XFOR (Local Authority Support Ltd.) to undertake enforcement duties, aimed at reducing evidence of litter and dog fouling, for a period of 12 months, with a 6 month review.

3.             That the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing be authorised to delegate the necessary powers under the relevant legislation for XFOR to issue fixed penalty notices (FPN's) on behalf of the Council for the duration of the agreement.

4.             That the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Visible and Building Services, be authorised to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with XFOR, detailing the operational responsibilities of the Council and XFOR in the agreement.

5.             That the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration be authorised to provide the necessary office accommodations for XFOR staff.

6.             That the current enforcement policy be suspended and that the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Visible and Building Services be authorised to agree any changes necessary to the policy to permit the use of XFOR for enforcement activities over the agreement period.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             There is little financial risk to the authority of asking this company as opposed to any similar company for this purpose and XFOR will only receive payments from penalty income, which are external funds.

2.             To formalise the Council's arrangement with XFOR.

3.             To ensure that XFOR staff have the necessary legal powers to undertake enforcement activities within the Vale of Glamorgan.

4.             To ensure that the operational responsibilities of each party to the agreement are understood.

5.             To permit XFOR staff to be located within the Council's Waste Management offices at the Alps, Wenvoe.

6.             To ensure that the enforcement activities under the new agreement are aligned to the enforcement policy.

Background

2.             Of 22 authorities surveyed by Keep Wales Tidy in 2010/11, the Vale of Glamorgan had the third lowest incidence of dog fouling (7.2% of streets assessed).  Despite this, dog fouling remains one of the areas where our citizens are most dissatisfied.

3.             This same survey advised that the Vale's cleanliness index (a calculation of how clean various zones are) had reduced slightly in 2010/11 compared to the previous year.  The Vale's Cleanliness index was 66.2 and the highest was Conwy and Ceredigion at 70.9 (the lowest was 64.9)

4.             Like many other Council's our biggest problem is from smoking related litter, which was found on 89.1% of the streets surveyed.

5.             Whilst the all Wales comparisons of litter and dog fouling in the Vale are generally positive, litter and dog fouling remain a major concern for our residents.

6.             This report proposes entering into an agreement, initially on a trial basis, with a private company.  XFOR who have a proven track record of robustly enforcing litter and dog fouling legislation.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council introduced a six month pilot scheme in October 2011, aimed at clamping down on litter and dog fouling offenders using a private Enforcement Company (XFOR Local Authority Support Ltd).  The company were brought in to support their own Enforcement officers in response to Keep Wales Tidy’s findings that Blaenau Gwent had some of the dirtiest streets in Wales, receiving some 900 complaints of dog fouling in 2010/11.

8.             At the three month stage of the pilot 600 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) of £75 have been issued by XFOR to Blaenau Gwent residents for littering or failing to pick up after their dogs.  Under the pilot scheme XFOR keep £45 of every fine to cover costs, staff wages and profit, meaning that it has already taken £27,000. Blaenau Gwent Council retain £30 of each fine and has used the £18,000 it has taken so far to employ two additional enforcement wardens to specifically target dog fouling. Blaenau Gwent is to review the success of the pilot when it finishes in March 2012, before deciding whether or not to extend past the initial six month pilot period.

9.             Following the announcement of the Blaenau Gwent pilot, officers arranged for a representative of XFOR to make a presentation to Informal Cabinet.  This took place on Wednesday 25th January 2012 and this report formalises the details given to Cabinet by XFOR and asks Cabinet to consider adopting an additional enforcement campaign using XFOR in support of the current Waste Management & Cleansing Enforcement Officers, targeting active prosecution of those residents and visitors committing littering and dog fouling offences throughout the Vale of Glamorgan.

10.        The current Waste Management & Cleansing Compliance and Enforcement team is not substantial and comprises the following officers:

1 no Senior Compliance Enforcement Officer; and

2 no Compliance and Enforcement Officers.

Their overall day to day duties include not only the enforcement of littering and dog fouling, but the illegal deposit of controlled waste (fly-tipping), graffiti removal, inspection of HWRCs to ensure compliance with operational licence and householder tipping permits, 'Duty of Care' checks on commercial and domestic waste producers, investigation of inappropriate black bag placement, slipway permit compliance, local land quality LEAMs monitoring, Safer Vale Partnership and Tidy Towns initiatives with Youth Offending/Probation Services and community groups, 'stop and search' waste carriers checks with police and the Environment Agency Wales, Waste and Dog Fouling awareness and education campaigns and the investigation of all other reported environmental crimes. While they are accepted as being an extremely valuable resource their capability to meet all resident's service demands is limited.

11.        Deployment of XFOR officers within the Vale will significantly increase the available resources to target the enforcement of dog fouling and littering incidents which constitute a high proportion of our service requests. If deployed, XFOR officers will be ultimately controlled by an existing designated council Waste Management Compliance and Enforcement officer. This will also assist them working in partnership with Council officers within other departments such as the street cleansing team, parks and ground maintenance, housing teams and community representatives and the police.  Additionally their uniformed presence will assist in providing public reassurance.

12.        It is likely that the use of a private company to deliver littering and dog fouling enforcement will be unpopular with some residents as more will be fined and prosecuted. Blaenau Gwent report that they have received 13 official complaints about the conduct of enforcement officers since the scheme began, representing two per cent of the FPN issued. To minimise any such negativity it will be critical to proactively advertise and inform all residents of the new arrangements and of the reasons for them.

13.        A site visit to Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent was undertaken by Cllr. Cox, Cabinet Member for Visible and Building Services on the 17 February 2012 in order for Cllr. Cox to assess for himself the work being carried out by XFOR front line officers, and obtain the general feelings of the public and Council officers in respect to the work being carried out in Blaenau Gwent. The overall view that he obtained was that this was a valid pilot initiative for the Council to implement and that there had been an overall improvement in environmental land quality in the pilot areas since its introduction.

14.        If agreed by Cabinet, XFOR will retain £45 from every notice properly issued to fund their costs. It should be noted that the Council will need to meet the costs of any properly issued fixed penalty notice that is cancelled by the Council. The minimum income received from a fixed penalty notice is £75.00. The Council will therefore retain £30.00 for every fixed penalty ticket properly issued. It is understood, based on the number of staff intended during the trial period, that to be cost effective XFOR will need to issue around 3,000 FPN over the 12 month period.  Within the last few years, by comparison, Council Officers have issued a total of 22 FPNs for both littering and dog fouling.

15.        Whilst the main focus will be for XFOR to issue FPNs there will be occasions where this will not be appropriate. These include:

(i) where a suspect appears to be unable to understand what is being offered to them, or there is any doubt about their ability to understand English. Where such circumstances arise every effort should be made to solicit/impart the required information;

(ii) where a suspect appears to be under age or below the criminal threshold for liability;

(iii) where the suspect is a non-resident foreign national (i.e. not British or Northern Irish), as the penalty will not be enforceable;

(iv) where no satisfactory address exists for enforcement purposes. This may be where the officer has reason to believe that the suspect is homeless or sleeping rough;

(v) a FPN may also not be appropriate where it is known that the suspect has previous convictions or a caution for the offence, or has been issued with a number of FPNs, particularly if they have not paid.

16.        Cabinet at its meeting of 8th November, 2006 resolved to approve the Visible Services Enforcement Policy for graffiti, litter, dog fouling (Min No. C2744 refers) (attached as Appendix II).  The approach of the policy is for prevention rather than prosecution with formal action the last option.  While the existing Enforcement Policy is focused on prevention, Section 7, 'Enforcement Options' does allow Officers to use immediate formal action, including FPNs, when they witness or have 'reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed' (7.41.)  This would allow XFOR to issue FPNs in accordance with the Policy.  However, Cabinet are asked to suspend the current policy to permit this more robust enforcement approach and to agree to the policy being changed to reflect the new agreement with XFOR, with the amended policy being agreed by the Cabinet Member for Visible and Building Services.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

17.        There are no direct costs of accepting the proposal from XFOR. The only cost to the Council will be the payments made to XFOR for the FPNs they issue (£45 for each FPN issued) and advertising costs. However, the income received of £75 from each fine will cover these costs and the minor costs associated with office accommodation and support to XFOR during the trial. XFOR costs are based on the provision of 1 Team Leader/Administrator and 2 teams of 2 officers.

18.        To be cost effective XFOR will need to issue approximately 3,000 FPNs during the trial period generating an income of £135,000 for XFOR and a potential sum of £90,000 for the Council.  It is proposed that any income generated for the Council would be retained by Waste Management and Cleansing and ring fenced for use on litter and dog fouling initiatives and equipment.  A number of ideas are under consideration at the moment such as the provision of dog fouling bags dispensers in parks and at the start of known dog walking locations.

19.        Due to the potential value to XFOR of this arrangement Cabinet are asked to waive contract standing orders on this occasion to allow this initiative to progress promptly.  Contract Standing Orders 3.1 advises:

'Where the estimated value or amount of a proposed contract exceeds £100,000, and in any other cases where the Cabinet so determines, tenders shall be invited in accordance with Standing Order Nos. 4 and 5'.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

20.        Local Authorities are empowered under the Environmental Protection Act 1990: section (88) to operate Fixed Penalty schemes for littering.

21.        The Council has the specific power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice to cover dog fouling under the Dog Fouling (Fixed Penalties) Order 1996. A specific Fixed Penalty Notice will be used for dog fouling and will cite Section 4 of the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996.

22.        The Fixed Penalty fees are, at present £75, and all this is kept by the issuing local authority and can be used to supplement further enforcement or alleviate economic issues such as administration, purchasing of equipment, specific software, for recording incidents. A fixed penalty is however, not a fine. Payment of the penalty by the recipient discharges their liability to conviction for the offence for which the FPN was issued. It does not constitute an admission of guilt, but removes the possibility of the creation of a record of criminal conviction.

23.        All XFOR officers will be full time salaried employees of XFOR and will be SIA licence holders or have similar vetting (CRB) and recruited to the BSI 7858 standard.

Crime and Disorder Implications

24.        The provision of the trial with its strong enforcement focusing on the issuing of £75 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) and possible Magistrates Court hearings for those who fail to discharge their offence by paying the issued FPN.  This should deter others from committing these offences and reduce similar environmental crime in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

25.        There are no equal opportunity implications as a result of this report as the enforcement of environmental crime and the offence of littering and failing to clean up dog faeces have no exceptions within the law. However, where there are cases of disability, age and reasonableness (see paragraph 10 above), where it is clear that XFOR would need to adopt a common sense approach to issuing FPNs, this approach will be adopted.  This is further detailed in the draft MoU (attached as Appendix 1).

Corporate/Service Objectives

26.        It is a Corporate priority.

To work with partners to develop a sustainable community which maximises opportunities for economic growth, social improvement and environmental regeneration and protection.

Improvement Objective 27:

To protect and enhance the Vale's natural and built environment.

Improvement Objective 32:

Manage, support and develop our employee to enable them to deliver and maintain the Council's services to the highest possible standard.

Improvement Objective 33:

To make best use of our assets and to procure good, sustainable services and facilities.

Policy Framework and Budget

27.        This report is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

28.        As the proposed trial is Vale wide no specific consultation has been carried out with Ward Members. However, it is proposed to advertise the initiative widely so that all sectors of the community are aware of the implications if they should breach the law. The target groups will vary according to the individual campaign. (e.g. different age groups in schools).

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

29.        Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

How Clean are Our Streets - All Wales Local environmental Audit and Management System Report 2010 - 11 (LEAMS)

 

Contact Officer

Clifford Parish, Operational Manager Waste Management and Cleansing Tel No:  029 2067 3220

 

Officers Consulted

Accountant, Building and Visible Services

Operational Manager Strategy and Support

Operational Manager Parks and Ground Maintenance

Operational Manager Corporate Policy and Communications

Operational Manager Public Sector Housing

Head of Public Protection

Operational Manager Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick, Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

 

 

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