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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 28 July, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for the Environment and Visible Services

 

'XFOR' Environmental Enforcement Services Trial - 30 July 2012 - 20 May 2013

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To inform Cabinet of the outcome of the environmental enforcement trial, utilising 'XFOR', to support Council Enforcement Officers in tackling offences of littering and dog fouling, and to propose a number of possible options for the future.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet notes the outcome of the trial.

2.         That delegated authority be granted to the Director of Visible Services and Housing, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for the Environment and Visible Services, to invite expressions of interest from private environmental enforcement companies able to provide litter and dog fouling enforcement services in the Vale.

3.         That the Director of Visible Services and Housing gives consideration to the possibility of extending the duties of Civil Parking Enforcement Officers to include Environmental Enforcement in the future.

4.         That on conclusion of recommendations 2 and 3 above, a further report is provided to Cabinet detailing the full costs of all available future options for improved environmental enforcement.

5.         That this report be referred to the Economy and Environment Scrutiny Committee.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To advise Cabinet of the outcome of the trial.

2.         To establish what private enforcement options are currently available to the Council.

3.         To investigate if amalgamating the duties of environmental enforcement officers and Civil Parking Enforcement Officers is a viable option.

4.         To obtain all the necessary information required to enable Cabinet to take a decision on this matter for the future.

5.         To ensure that the relevant Scrutiny Committee is kept suitably informed.

Background

2.         Cabinet on the 14 March 2012 (minute C1661 refers) resolved to deploy XFOR for a 12 month trial which included a 6 month review:

RESOLVED -

(1)       T H A T authority be granted to waive Contract Standing Orders to permit the appointment of XFOR.

(2)       T H A T the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services, 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 twelve months with a six month review.

(3)       T H A T the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services be authorised to delegate the necessary powers under the relevant legislation for XFOR to issue Fixed Penalty Notices on behalf of the Council for the duration of the agreement.

(4)       T H A T 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 with XFOR, detailing the operational responsibilities of the Council and XFOR in the agreement.

(5)       T H A T the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration be authorised to provide the necessary office accommodation for XFOR staff.

(6)       T H A T 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.

(7)       T H A T the success or otherwise of the trial be reported to Cabinet prior to the conclusion of the six month period, at which time Cabinet will be asked to either end the contract, continue for a further six months or subject the service to open tender.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(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 arrangements with XFOR.

(3)       To ensure that XFOR staff had 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.

(7)       To enable a decision to be taken based on the performance of XFOR.

The Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment) on 15 January, 2013 considered a report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing outlined the working arrangements and performance to date of the Environmental Enforcement Services trial utilising XFOR (Local Authority Support Ltd) and.

 

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.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(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.

Cabinet on the 4 February 2013 (min ref C1995 refers) after considering the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment);

 

RESOLVED –

 

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

(2)       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.

Reasons for decisions

(1)       To apprise Members.

(2)       For Members’ information.

 

3.         The Council currently employs three officers on a permanent basis with responsibility for environmental enforcement.  Whilst a considerable amount of their time is spent on raising awareness amongst our residents and businesses, they do issue a number of FPN's each year.  In 2011 / 2012 they issued 5 for dog fouling, 63 for littering and 3 for smoking related littering.  In 2012 / 2013 the numbers were 10, 53 and 9 for each category and so far this year the numbers are 3, 43 and 0.  Even with a significant change in focus our own staff are unlikely to ever reach the enforcement ticketing levels of a private organisation set up specifically for such a purpose.

Relevant Issues and Options

4.         XFOR commenced their enforcement patrols in the Vale, in respect to litter and dog fouling, on the 30th July 2012 and continued their 'no tolerance' enforcement work with varying staffing levels for approximately 10 months.  The trial ended prematurely on 20th May 2013, with XFOR having issued 1,665 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) of £75 to residents and visitors guilty of the offences of littering or dog fouling. Details of XFOR's activity over the trial period are shown below:

Table 1

 

 

Litter

Dog Fouling

 1

No. of fixed penalties issued 

 

1655

 

10

 2

No. of fixed penalties paid

 

1196

 

6

 3

Amount Collected (£)

 

£89716

 

£450

 

 

5.         Although XFOR initially commenced the service with a total of 4 Enforcement Officers plus 1 Administrative Officer, they did experience some staff turnover problems and at times only operated with 2 Enforcement Offices plus an Administrative Officer. At the end of the trial they operated with a staff level of 2 Enforcement Officers only. This resulted in a reduced numbers of FPNs being issued.

6.         XFOR needed to issue a minimum of 50 FPNs per week, in order to support their business model. This resulted in them targeting the most prevalent and easy to detect offences of 'smoking related' litter. Whilst assurances were given by XFOR's senior management that once their officers had reached the minimum number of FPN's they were available to carry any patrols as directed by the Council, there remained a disproportionate focus on smoking related litter in high footfall areas such as town centres, Llandough Hospital car park and retail parks. Having said that Cabinet should note that XFOR did on occasions support patrolling areas such as playing fields or designated residential areas when requested to do so by Council officers.

7.         To have been fully cost effective over the 12 month trial XFOR needed to issue approximately 3,000 FPNs. From Table 1 above it can be seen that they issued 1665 in the 10 months they operated. XFOR's decision to reduce their resources operating within the Vale was not adequately explained at the time and was clearly at odds with their need to recover their costs.

8.         Of the 1665FPNs issued, 72% were paid, discharging the offender's legal liability to prosecution.. Approximately 7% of fines issued were taken through Court for non-payment. This process involved a considerable amount of officer time.  

9.         As alluded to previously, a disappointing aspect of the trial was that even following meetings to try to address some of the concerns raised XFOR were still targeting smokers and, in some cases, making covert patrols to do so. This led to the Director of Visible Services and Housing meeting with the Managing Director of XFOR on the 19th December 2012 to agree the following changes in their enforcement activities:

·               A change in focus by XFOR from smoking related litter to more general littering offences and failing to pick up after dogs;

·               Future mobile patrolling by XFOR officers rather than waiting in specific locations;

·               Additional dog fouling specific patrols at locations agreed with the Council;

·               Future night time patrols;

·               Future working with the Council and Vale of Glamorgan Schools to educate under 18's not to litter by patrolling outside school areas and issuing warning notices (not FPNs);

·               Increased working with local Police to tackle environmental crime.

10.      Despite this meeting, little change was noted in XFOR's operational practices, indeed, from February 2013 significant reductions in XFOR resources were noted with staffing levels reducing from 1 Administrative officer and 4 Enforcement officers to 2 Enforcement officers only, for the remainder of the trial period.  At this time there was some press coverage concerning alleged financial issues with XFOR and the company was acquired by Kingdom Security Ltd, who gave a commitment to continue with the trial.  However when the failure to address the concerns detailed above were raised with XFOR / Kingdom Security ltd.  Matters were raised as unacceptable with senior managers within XFOR they refused to increase their resources and served the Council with a 7 day 'Termination Notice' prematurely ending the trial on the 20th May 2013 approximately 2 months short of the agreed trial period.

11.      The reaction of the vast majority of our residents and the press throughout the trial was positive and apart from those actually issued with a FPN no formal complaints were received, with only one other resident seeking a discussion with officers to raise a number of minor concerns. Whilst there were allegations of inappropriate and aggressive behaviour by XFOR officers, the video footage taken via their personal CCTV body cameras showed such allegations to be, on the whole, unfounded. In respect to the issuing of FPNs to those witnessed dropping litter the Council received a total of 121 written complaints claiming inappropriately issued FPN's and although it was necessary to waive 5 possible court actions on medical health grounds only 5 complaints were upheld due to errors or unacceptable behaviour on the part of XFOR staff.

12.      There is no doubt that the trial, and its related publicity, significantly raised awareness amongst our residents and visitors of the consequences of littering in the Vale of Glamorgan. This can only be seen as a positive outcome in terms of our wish to keep the Vale litter free. Whether or not the trial had a direct impact in reducing incidence of litter and dog fouling is however more difficult to evidence. 

13.      The trial ended on 20th May 2013 and a Keep Wales Tidy (KWT) Local Environment (LEAMS) survey for the Vale of Glamorgan carried out between the 31st October and the 14th November 2013 showed:

·               the then Cleanliness Indicator (CI) for the Vale of Glamorgan as 70.9.This is the highest recorded by KWT since their surveys began and notably above the all Wales figure of 67.6 and a significant improvement on the figure of 66.9 achieved during 2012;

·               dog fouling affected 7.8% of streets in the Vale, an improvement on the figure of 11.6% from 2012 and a figure that compared very favourably to the then all Wales figure of 13.8%;

·               graffiti had dropped from 11.6% in 2012-13 to 5.8% in 2013-14, taking it below the then all Wales figure of 11.9%.

 

14.      However, the report confirmed that the most common litter issue facing the Vale of Glamorgan, and indeed Wales as a whole, was still the presence of smoking-related litter (SRL); predominantly cigarette ends. SRL was encountered on 73.8% of the streets surveyed. The presence of SRL nevertheless was below the all Wales level, which stood at 86.9%. Confectionary litter was found on 45.6% of streets and drinks litter on 26.2%. Fast food litter was recorded on 17.5% of streets.

15.      Although there is no direct evidence that the improved cleanliness related to the XFOR trial (it equally may have resulted from improved cleaning services provided by the Council's cleansing teams), it is possible that it was a factor in deterring some dog fouling and littering offences. Also by directly tackling littering offences in a 'zero tolerance' manner XFOR did at least ensure that a number of our worst offenders were appropriately punished.

16.      It should be noted that although the KWT survey showed that dog fouling had reduced, this is unlikely to relate to the number of FPNs issued by XFOR for dog fouling offences; though some benefit may have been obtained from the fear of dog owners being caught. The low number of FPNs for dog fouling reflects the difficulty XFOR had in witnessing these offences due to their nature. Such offences can occur before and after day light hours and/or at isolated areas.

17.      Committee should be aware that similar concerns were raised in Blaenau Gwent where XFOR also operated a similar trial and this resulted in the Council entering into a separate agreement with XFOR to provide an additional 2 no dedicated Dog Control Enforcement Officers, for which XFOR were paid at £20 per hour (£320 per day for both officers) to tackle dog related issues including dog fouling.

18.      Blaenau Gwent CBC recently subjected this service to competition and appointed Kingdom Security as their preferred contractor for this service.

19.      There are other private providers still active in this market, some of whom are offering an enforcement service at nil cost.  With the learning gathered from the XFOR trial it is proposed that expressions of interest be sought from interested private companies to enable an assessment to be undertaken of the various options available and of the costs of these options.

20.      This Council is currently in partnership with Bridged County Borough Council for the provision of Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), and has just recently completed one year of this partnership arrangement.  One future option could be to utilise CPE staff to issue enforcement notices for environmental crimes, in addition to parking offences, and this is an arrangement recently introduced in Wrexham County Borough Council.

21.      Such an arrangement is likely to reduce income as the frequency of environmental crimes is generally less than that of parking contraventions.  Also, Bridgend CBC officers are not supportive of this approach which could mean that any staff engaged in this 'dual' role may have to be directly employed by the Vale of Glamorgan.  Cabinet will be aware that all CPE staff are currently employed by Bridged CBC.

22.      A report detailing the costs and income of the CPE partnership during its first year is shortly to be considered by Cabinet.  The option to 'dual' the roles of a number of staff within this service will be considered in light of the financial position to date and any projections for the future.  This can then be compared with the range of private provider options available.

23.      Future Options for consideration:

(i)  Do Nothing - By reverting to the enforcement services offered by Waste Management and Cleansing prior to the commencement of the trial;

(ii) Procurement of external enforcement - Carry out a formal procurement exercise to obtain contracted enforcement support to carry out littering and dog fouling and possible duty of care, inappropriate placement of residual  black bin bags enforcement work;

(ii) Expanding the existing Waste Management and Cleansing's Enforcement establishment to provide the additional enforcement activities provided externally during the trial.

(iii) Utilising CPE officers to enforce Environmental crimes in addition to Road Traffic legalisation.

 

24.      Due to the bespoke nature of this work and the relative success of the XFOR trial, in terms of FPNs issued and improvements in street cleanliness around the trial period, the favoured option at the moment is for external enforcement utilising the private sector, however this could be cost prohibitive.

25.      All options will be considered in greater detail with a preferred way forward highlighted in a further report shortly.


Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

26.      The income and costs of the trial are detailed below:

Table 2

 

        £K

Possible Income from FPNs

       £124,875

Actual Income based on % payments and FPNs waived by Council

       £90,166

Payments made to XFOR

       £74,935

Net surplus of income against expenditure

        £15,231

 

27.      This represents an overall £15,231 surplus to the Councilhowever  it should also be noted that considerable officer time was taken up during the trial on dealing with complaints and progressing cases to Court.  These costs will have to be factored into any new options for environmental enforcement.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

28.      By changing public attitudes to environment crime, reducing litter and dog fouling by strong enforcement will not only improve local environmental land quality which is sustainable itself but by addressing the underlining public behaviours make cleansing activities far more sustainable and in term reduced cleansing would result in reduced carbon emissions.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

30.      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.

31.      The Fixed Penalty fees are, at present £75, 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.

32.      All procured officers must be full time salaried employees and are either SIA licence holders or have similar vetting (CRB) and recruited to the BSI 7858 standard.

33.      The procurement will be carried out in accordance with the EU Public Sector Procurement Directive (2004/18/EC). 

Crime and Disorder Implications

34.      The provision of strong enforcement focusing on the issuing of £75 FPNs and possible Magistrates Court hearings for those who fail to discharge their offence by paying the issued FPN will deter others from committing these offences and reduce similar environmental crime in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

35.      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 where it is clear that there is a need to adopt a common sense approach to issuing FPNs.

Corporate/Service Objectives

36.      Outcome: Current and future generations of Vale residents and visitors enjoy the built and natural environment of the Vale of Glamorgan and actively protect and maintain them.

E2  Reduce fly tipping, litter, dog fouling and graffiti through zero tolerance high profile enforcement arrangements and education and awareness raising campaigns (2013/14)

Policy Framework and Budget

37.      This report is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

38.      As the trial was across the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan no specific consultation has been carried out with Ward Members.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

39.      Economy and Environment.

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Clifford Parish, Operational Manager Waste Management and Cleansing

Tel: 02920 673 220

 

Officers Consulted

Accountant Building and Visible Services

Operational Manager Parks and Grounds Maintenance

Operational Manager Public Sector Housing

Head of Public Protection

Operational Manager Legal

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter, Director of Visible Services and Housing

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