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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 4TH FEBRUARY, 2013

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT): 15TH JANUARY, 2013

 

 

“           PROGRESS REPORT - XFOR (LOCAL AUTHORITY SUPPORT LTD.) ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT SERVICES TRIAL (DVSH) -

 

The report outlined the working arrangements and performance to date of the Environmental Enforcement Services trial utilising XFOR (Local Authority Support Ltd).  Cabinet had, on 14th March, 2012 resolved to deploy XFOR for a 12 month trial period which included a six month review.  The Director of Visible Services and Housing advised that XFOR had initially commenced the service with a total of 4 Enforcement Officers plus 1 Administrative Officer but during the trial had experienced some staff turnover issues and at times had operated with only 2 Enforcement Officers plus an Administrative Officer which had resulted in a reduced number of FPNs being issued. 

 

Being a commercial undertaking XFOR needed to achieve a minimum number of FPNs per week (i.e. 50 FPNs) in order to support their operational costs.  This resulted in their initial priority being targeted towards the most prevalent types of litter offences in order for them to guarantee their circa 50 FPNs per week.  Whilst assurances had been given by XFOR's senior management that once their officers had reached the minimum number they were then available to carry out any patrols as directed by the Council. The Director advised that it would be true to say that the need to obtain a minimum quota of FPNs had resulted in a disproportionate focus on high footfall areas such as Town Centres and shopping areas targeting littering, and more specifically, smoking related litter.  Although he could advise that XFOR had also been supportive of patrolling areas such as playing fields when requested to do so by Council Officers.

 

Committee was informed that the most significant litter problems within the Vale of Glamorgan were that of smokers discarding their cigarette based material on our streets.  Whilst this may not be the most important or most offensive form of littering in the eyes of the public, this was a fact supported by a recent independent report by 'Keep Wales Tidy' undertaken in September 2012, which identified this form of litter as being the most prevalent of all forms found on our streets.  With 84% of the streets surveyed featuring some form of smoking related material, compared with dog fouling which was found to be present on just over 11% of the streets surveyed. Tackling this form of litter, whilst not perhaps seen by the public as being the main priority, should the Director advised ensure that the most frequent offenders are suitably punished.

 

It was noted that overall, the reaction of the vast majority of residents and the press to the trial had been very positive.  Apart from a number of people actually issued with a FPN no formal complaints had been received by the Council, and only one resident had sought a meeting with officers to discuss concerns.  Whilst there had been some allegations of inappropriate or aggressive behaviour by XFOR officers, video footage taken on their personal CCTV body cameras had shown this to be unfounded in most cases.  With regard to the issuing of FPNs to those witnessed dropping litter, the Council had received a total of 35 written complaints that FPNs were inappropriately issued though only a small number of the complaints had resulted in the FPN being rescinded. It had been necessary to waive possible court action on medical / health grounds, technical / administrative issues or unacceptable behaviour on the part of XFOR officers on 22 occasions in total (up to the end of month 5).

 

To be fully cost effective over the 12 month trial XFOR would need to issue approximately 3,000 FPNs.  Having issued approximately 1,000 in the first 4 months they would appear to be on target to achieve this.  Whilst XFOR may be on target to recover their operating costs, the payment rate for those issued with an FPN currently stood at 59%.  Whilst XFOR may recover their costs, it was likely that the Council would make a small financial loss. The full extent of this position would however, not be known until the legitimately issued FPNs (those that had not been paid), were progressed through the Courts.  The first of the prosecution files had been sent to the Council's Legal Department (70 cases) and the first court hearing had taken place on 6th December 2012.  The offender had been found guilty in their absence and fined £237.40. 

 

The overall performance of XFOR since they started work with the Council had been mostly as expected though it was hoped that a larger proportion of FPNs would be issued for dog fouling and/or general litter offences.  However, it was clear that the most common offences witnessed so far were those which involved smoking related litter.  Despite this imbalance between these offences and other forms of littering the terms of XFOR's engagement were to issue FPNs for all littering offences witnessed.  There was therefore no reason why XFOR should not be permitted to complete their trial term, although officers would need to work more closely with them to ensure that any areas of concern that may be raised by residents, including the lack of dog fouling enforcement, were given greater priority.

 

The Director further advised that a similar pattern of offences was apparent in Blaenau Gwent, where XFOR had also operated a similar trial. This had resulted in the Council entering into a separate agreement for XFOR to provide an additional 2 No. dedicated Dog Control Enforcement Officers, paid at £20 per hour (£320 per day in total) to tackle dog related issues including dog fouling.  However, even with this dedicated resource XFOR advised that 'Dog fouling FPNs' had only totalled 3 during the 10 months that this additional service had been in operation.  It was noted that dog fouling offences were notoriously difficult to enforce due to a number of reasons. One of these being the problem of linking the location of the offence to the dog responsible and its owner. Also experience had shown that the majority of irresponsible dog owners immediately changed their behaviour when they note the uniform presence of XFOR staff.

 

·                    The report also highlighted the details of offences undertaken to date with the Director further advising that with regard to week commencing 7th January, 2013 he could confirm that the number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued totalled 1,207. 

 

During consideration of the report the following issues were discussed.

 

Question

Response

Members queried whether local Members could report issues direct.

Yes.  Any Member should report   untoward incidents directly to the Director of Visible Services and Housing or to his Department.

A local Member for Llantwit Major advised that one of the issues in their area was in relation to chewing gum.

The problem for XFOR was in actually catching the culprit throwing the chewing gum.  It would therefore be essential to raise public awareness by establishing a campaign with local shops, schools etc. to advise the public of the implications.

Would it be possible to receive information as to the number of Fixed Penalty Notices for litter thrown from vehicles?

The Director would make further investigations and respond to Members accordingly. 

Could the XFOR team be requested to put more resources into the dog fouling issue?

This had been taken up with the Managing Director as outlined below, the results of which would be able to be referred to Members in due course.

Would it be possible for Members to know which areas the XFOR officers would be visiting and if possible to receive information on a Ward by Ward basis?

Yes this could be made available to Members on a regular basis.

Further publicity needed to be undertaken and consideration be given as to how information could be published. Suggestions made were scattergram maps and the placing of information as to how many FPN notices had been issued on lampposts etc similar to the signs that were placed on the Five Mile Lane advising of accidents that had taken place. 

Publicity would be undertaken and the Director would look into the options suggested.

 

In response to a query of whether agreed routes should be publicised the majority of Members considered that it was probably in the best interests of the Council not to identify the routes but to ensure that the XFOR team were advised of Members’ concerns and of where further targeting should be made. 

 

With permission to speak granted, the Leader of the Council advised that having spoken to the local Chief Superintendent he had been advised that the presence of XFOR was working as a deterrent with particular regard to the  fact that the officers carried small cameras and that people were aware they may be caught on CCTV.  The Director advised that this was a time for learning and that further information could be provided to Members on the number of notices etc. that had been made, plus XFOR had been requested to undertake further work.  He had also met with the Managing Director of the company on 19th December and had followed this up with a letter detailing areas for further improvement.  These included

 

·                    increased dog fouling patrols as some of these patrols were undertaken by staff in plain clothes

·                    patrols were undertaken during the evening aimed at general littering offences at fast food outlets and public houses

·                    patrols on roads to schools with children being approached and warned if littering, although this should only take place with agreement by the Council and the Headteacher of the school concerned and should be accompanied by an educational awareness raising programme

·                    all patrols to be mobile – there should be no accusations of stalking or covert operations for littering offences and increased working with the local Police to support night time operations

·                    to not concentrate enforcement activity to a great extent in Barry and Penarth and to undertake enforcement activities throughout the Vale.

 

Having considered the report in detail it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Committee supported the continuation of the trial for the full 12 month period as specified in the report.

 

(2)       T H A T a further detailed report on the outcome of the trial, before its completion, be reported to the Scrutiny Committee.

 

(3)       T H A T arrangements be made for all Members of the Council to receive monthly reports on the Fixed Penalty Notices issued per week and the patrolling routes taken by XFOR officers..

 

(4)       T H A T the above recommendations be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       The Committee supported the continuation of a trial for the full 12 month period for this method of enforcement.

 

(2)       To apprise Members.

 

(3)       For Members’ information.

 

(4)       To seek Cabinet approval.”

 

 

 

 

Attached at Appendix A - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 15th January, 2013

 

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