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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment):  15th January, 2013

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Progress Report - XFOR (Local Authority Support Ltd.) Environmental Enforcement Services Trial

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform Committee of the working arrangements and performance to date of the environmental enforcement services trial utilising XFOR (Local Authority Support Ltd).

Recommendations

1.             That Committee endorse continuation of the trial for the full 12 month period.

2.             That Committee receive a further detailed report on the outcome of the trial before its completion.

3.             That this report be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To demonstrate the support of this Committee to this method of enforcement and conclusion of the full trial period.

2.             To advise Committee of the outcome of the full trial and to permit consideration of the procurement of further external enforcement support in future if appropriate.

3.             To update Cabinet and to allow them to consider the views of this Committee as regards the outcome to date of the trial.

Background

2.             Cabinet on the 14 March 2012 (min ref 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.

 

3.             XFOR commenced their enforcement patrols in respect to litter and dog fouling on the 30th July 2012 and have now been carrying out their "no tolerance" enforcement work for approximately 5 months.  At the 4 month stage (last full month) of the trial (w/c 26th November 2012) 1008 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN's) of £75 had been issued to residents and visitors witnessed littering or failing to pick up after their dogs. Details of the offences to date are shown below:

Week Commencing:

Dog Fouling

Food Waste

Cigarette End

Litter

Total

Running Total

30/07/2012

0

0

52

1

53

53

06/08/2012

2

0

74

1

77

130

13/08/2012

0

2

76

1

79

209

20/08/2012

0

0

83

6

89

298

27/08/2012

1

0

46

3

50

348

03/09/2012

0

1

35

1

37

385

10/09/2012

0

0

55

1

56

440

17/09/2012

0

0

56

3

59

499

24/09/2012

1

0

41

0

42

541

01/10/2012

0

0

56

5

61

602

08/10/2012

0

1

53

3

57

659

15/10/2012

0

0

40

3

43

702

22/10/2012

0

0

49

5

54

756

29/10/2012

0

0

58

1

59

815

05/11/2012

0

1

49

3

53

869

12/11/2012

0

0

57

3

60

929

19/11/2012

0

0

36

1

37

966

26/11/2012

0

2

37

3

42

1008

03/12/2012

0

0

55

1

56

1064

10/12/2012

0

0

27

0

27

1091

17/12/2012

0

2

31

2

35

1126

24/12/2012

0

1

10

3

14

1140

 

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             XFOR initially commenced the service with a total of 4 Enforcement Officers plus 1 Administrative Officer, but during the trial have experienced some staff turn over issues and at times have operated with only 2 Enforcement Officers plus an Administrative Officer, resulting in reduced numbers of FPN's being issued.  They also now provide the services of a Regional Manager (based in Blaenau Gwent) who spends a percentage of his time within the Vale and provides a local senior management contact for the Council. 

5.             Being a commercial undertaking XFOR need to achieve a minimum number of FPNs per week in order to support their operational costs.  This is 50 FPNs per week.  This results 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 have been given by XFOR's senior management that once their officers have reached this minimum number they are available to carry any patrols as directed by the Council, it is true to say this need to obtain a minimum quota of FPNs has resulted in a disproportionate focus on high footfall areas such as Town Centres and shopping areas targeting littering, and more specifically, smoking related litter.  Having said this, XFOR have been supportive of patrolling areas such as playing fields when requested to do so by Council Officers.

6.             Committee should be aware that the most significant litter problems within the Vale of Glamorgan are 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 is 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 ensure that our most frequent offenders are suitably punished.

7.             Overall, the reaction of the vast majority of our residents and the press to the trial has been very positive.  Apart from a number of people actually issued with a FPN no formal complaints have been received by the Council, and only one resident has sought a meeting with officers to discuss concerns.  Whilst there have been some allegations of inappropriate or aggressive behaviour by XFOR officers video footage taken on their personal CCTV body cameras has shown this to be unfounded in most cases.  In respect to the issuing of FPNs to those witnessed dropping litter the Council has received a total of 35 written complaints that FPNs were inappropriately issued though only a small number of these complaints have resulted in the FPN being rescinded. It has 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).

8.             To be fully cost effective over the 12 month trial XFOR will 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 stands at 59%.  Whilst XFOR may recover their costs, it is likely that the Council will make a small financial loss. The full extent of this position will not be known until the legitimately issued FPN's (those that have not been paid), progress through the Courts.  The first prosecution files have now been sent to the Council's Legal Department (70 cases) and the first court hearing took place on 6th December 2012 when the offender was found guilty in their absence and fined £237.40. 

9.             The overall performance of XFOR since they started work with the Council has 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 is clear that the most common offences witnessed so far are those which involve smoking related litter.  Despite this imbalance between these offences and other forms of littering the terms of XFOR's engagement are to issue FPNs for all littering offences witnessed.  There is therefore no reason why XFOR should not be permitted to complete their trial term, although officers do need to work more closely with them to ensure that any areas of concern that may be raised by our residents, including the lack of dog fouling enforcement, are given greater priority.

10.        Committee should be aware that a similar pattern of offences was apparent in Blaenau Gwent, where XFOR also operate a similar trial. This 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 advise that 'Dog fouling FPNs' have only totalled 3 during the 10 months that this additional service has been in operation.  Dog fouling offences are 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 our experience has shown that the majority of irresponsible dog owners immediately change their behaviour when they note the uniform presence of XFOR staff.

11.        A service review meeting took place on the 9th December 2012 involving the Managing Director of XFOR, their Area Manager, the Director of Visible Services and Housing and the Operational Manager for Waste Management and Cleansing.  This meeting followed a previous review meeting where the Director was not in attendance and primarily concentrated on reviewing the focus of XFOR's work to seek to increase enforcement arrangements for dog fouling and other forms of litter, other than cigarette based material.  The following points were agreed at the meeting and will now be progressed over the next six months of the trial:

·         Increased patrols by XFOR officers (rather than waiting in specific locations which has been observed on occasions);

·         Additional dog fouling patrols at locations agreed with the Council with a number of these patrols involving plain clothes operations;

·         Night time patrols aimed at enforcing litter problems at fast food outlets and public houses;

·         Education and awareness raising patrols in proximity to local schools aimed at educating children of the perils of littering (no FPNs will be issued  on these occasions) and any such patrols will be organised in consultation with the relevant Head Teacher/Teachers and supported by other mechanisms such as leaflets, talks to school assemblies etc;

·         Increased working with local Police and PCSOs to assist in increasing the scope of enforcement activities.

12.        In addition to these changes to enforcement arrangements officers are investigating a "fixed reward" scheme, where members of the public could be issued with a £75.00 reward for using out litter bins correctly and / or picking up after their dogs.  The rewards would be issued over a set period on a once per week basis and each award would be accompanied by publicity in the local press aimed at further reinforcing the clean environment message.  This will be the subject of a report to this Committee and Cabinet shortly.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.        Whilst there are no direct costs associated with the trial apart from the relatively minor costs associated with the provision of office accommodation, a payment rate of 59% means that the council is currently paying marginally more to XFOR than it is recovering in income.  This position will obviously change as the resultant prosecutions progress through the Courts.  The table below gives a breakdown of the cost to the council of the first 5 months of the trial.

 

 

             £k

 

 

Actual Income based on % payments and FPNs waived by Council

50.7

Payments made to XFOR

51.0

Net deficit of income against expenditure

-0.3

 

14.        If the current payment rate is maintained then the cost to the Council at the end of the 12 month trial period could be less than £5k.  This cost is significantly less than the cost to the Council of employing one Enforcement Officer for a twelve month period (assuming of course no income from FPNs).

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

15.        The robust enforcement of environmental crimes will over time improve the quality of our local environment, this should also reduce the level of street cleaning required which could result in a small reduction in carbon emissions.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

17.        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.

18.        The Fixed Penalty fees (which are at present £75) are able to be kept by the issuing local authority and can be used to supplement further enforcement or alleviate economic issues such as administration, purchasing of equipment or 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.

19.        All XFOR officers are full time salaried employees of XFOR and will be Security Industry Authority licensed (SIA) and subject to disclosure arrangements, such as CRB checks, prior to their appointment.

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.        The provision of the trial with strong enforcement, focusing on the issue of £75 Fixed Penalty Notices and possible Magistrates Court action, should deter others from committing these offences and reduce similar environmental crimes in the Vale of Glamorgan.

21.        Members should note that many local authorities in Wales are now adopting "zero tolerance" approaches to environmental crimes.  A number of these appear to be as a result of the examples set by ourselves and Blaeneau Gwent.

22.        The original fixed penalty notice books were not bilingual.  This has recently been brought to the attention of the Service Director who has arranged for bilingual penalty notice books to be ordered.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.        There are no equal opportunity implications as a result of this report as there are no exemptions within the law to the offences of littering and failing to clean up dog faeces.  However, where there are cases of disability, age and/or reasonableness it is a requirement that XFOR adopt "a common sense approach" to the issuing of FPNs.

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.        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

25.        This report is within the policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.        As the trial is Vale wide no specific consultation has been carried out with individual Ward Members.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

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

Officers Consulted

Accountant, Building and Visible Services

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:

Miles Punter, Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

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