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October 2020
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Environmental Enforcement ' Looking to the Private Sector

July 2010 saw Maidstone Council embark on a year-long trial initiative with the Xfor Group, a local authority support services provider, in order to supplement its existing environmental enforcement team. Xfor’s Michael Fisher looks at how the initiative has fared.

Maidstone Council contacted us last year with a view to developing their litter enforcement programme. While some enforcement work was being undertaken, it became apparent that there wouldn’t be capacity within the council’s existing team to provide a dedicated litter enforcement service. Littering, particularly cigarette litter, was a major problem in the area.

What the council required was a firm-but-fair team that would be able to deal with the unique pressures associated with the role of litter enforcement. Our experience in this area of work and our cost-neutral approach meant we were a perfect fit.

In July 2010 we embarked on a six-month trial initiative, providing five fully-trained enforcement officers.

The primary role of the officers is to issue fixed penalties to members of the public caught dropping litter. Additionally, the officers have a secondary role in educating members of the public with regard to the impact litter has on the environment, and the benefits of disposing of their litter in a sustainable manner.

Critics of these schemes have claimed they are a costly exercise for councils, implemented during a time when councils should be looking to make savings. However, the cost for the supply of the environmental officers is essentially self-financing. It is funded solely through the penalties paid by those who commit litter and dog fouling offences.

All Xfor environmental officers are trained in legislation and are subject to vetting processes prior to deployment.
Aside from stationery (FPNs, notebooks) the real cost to the local authority is incurred through the use of legal services, such as the cost of taking to court a percentage of those people who don’t pay FPNs. However, this is vitally important, as it reinforces the message that if people don’t pay there is a high possibility that they will be summonsed to court where more often than not those prosecution costs are recovered.

Trying to change behaviour is difficult. Since we began our contract with Maidstone Council, we’ve issued nearly 4,000 fixed penalty notices, but the impact on the town has been significant. There is clear evidence that the Maidstone public are now using the bins and smoking receptacles provided by both the council and private businesses within the town centre.

Martyn Jeynes, Environmental Enforcement Operations Manager holds on to this belief -as those responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of our borough we took the opportunity to take a stance and really change behaviour. It continues to have its challenges and moments of difficulty but overall we maintain our belief that the opportunity presented by the partnership with Xfor provides a unique opportunity for the public and private sector to join forces and really start to change behaviour and restore civic pride into their borough and our big society.”

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