Monday 5 December 2022
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Councillors hail success of Rushcliffe private waste enforcement initiative – see breakdown of littering penalty charges in the borough

88% of the £100 penalty charge notices issued in Rushcliffe were for smoking-related waste.

At a meeting of Rushcliffe Borough Council’s Community Scrutiny Group last night ( Thursday 22 July ) a review of the first six months or so of the WISE private waste enforcement trial was discussed and results were presented.

WISE ( Waste Investigations Support & Enforcement ) is a private business with contracts with various councils in England – it operates at no cost to councils.

It operates by targeting fly-tipping, littering and other environmental crimes, investigating them, and enforcing penalties if allegations are proven.

The initial PCN for littering is £100, and can be reduced to £75 if paid within 14 days.

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Fly-tip penalties are variable based on the size of the waste area and amount of time needed to clean up.

Streetwise Environmental clean up waste from fly-tips.

In the case of Rushcliffe, WISE keep 95% of the penalty charge revenue that they generate.

Geoff Carpenter, Service Manager Public Protection at Rushcliffe Borough Council presented an overview of the problems facing the borough in terms of an increase in fly-tipping and other enviro-crime. He then detailed a process whereby the council had agreed to harness extra resource to tackle this type of crime – which is how the WISE trial came into force. The trial began on 5 January 2021.

The number of fly-tips reported in the borough over the past few years is:

2018/19 1,266

2019/20 1,070

2020/21 1,391

2021/22 to date 253

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© westbridgfordwire.com

John Dunne, Managing Director of WISE, attended the meeting and made a presentation to the scrutiny group.

John Dunne presented a first six months overview of the ( 12-month ) trial – noting that the areas they are targeting are: littering, fly-tipping, dog fouling, business duty of care and household duty of care.

 

He said that the plan was that any environmental crime complaints to the council ( littering – fly tipping – dog fouling ) ‘would be passed to the WISE team, and the specialist officers would begin an investigation.’ ‘If an alleged offences was then identified, WISE officers had delegated power to issue penalty charge notices ( PCNs ) for the offences listed above.’

John explained that patrols are ‘intelligence-led’, officers work between 7 am and 5 pm across all Rushcliffe borough wards.

Two officers minimum are delayed each day for seven days a week.

Fixed penalties issued by area were detailed on slides below:

Screenshot 2021 07 23 at 14.46.16 Screenshot 2021 07 23 at 14.46.06

Councillors were then invited to ask questions, this continues after the stats below.

 


NOTE – Freedom of Information request

Aware that the meeting was to take place, and after some contact from residents, The Wire submitted an FOI request to Rushcliffe Borough Council to find out what detail is within the category ‘litter’ – and to get more idea of how the service has improved.

The results are astonishing – in 2018 RBC issued 3 ( three ) PCNs for littering, in 2019 they issued 2 ( two ) in 2020 they issued 13 and in 2021 to end June 1,310 had been issued. So a massive increase in enforcement and at no cost to the council. ( There could be other costs to council over non-payment which results in court appearances, RBC is monitoring this ).

We asked: What were the PCNs issued for within the ‘littering’ category?  

1,310 penalty charge notices were issued for littering between 5 Jan and 30 June 2021 ( by the time of the meeting this was over 1,500)

The breakdown below shows the reason why they were issued.

• Cigarette butts   – 1,154  – 88% of all PCNs
• Waste cardboard – 6 PCNS
• Bag containing dog waste – 7 PCNS
• Bottle – 4 PCNS
• Bottle Top – 1 (One)
• Chewing gum 25
• Confectionery packs – 3
• Food – 2
• Fast food-related – 1 (One)
• Food wrapper – 20
• Other (?) 30 not identified further
• Packaging 15
• Printed literature 5
• Snack pack 1 ( One )
• Soft drinks bottle 16
• Soft drink can 15
• Sweet wrapper 5

 

Councillors were then invited to ask questions about the scheme.

Cllrs Healy and Mallender asked questions to get clarification on operational points – all were positive about the progress and felt the trial was working really well.

Cllr Rod Jones asked for clarification of the costs to an alleged offender of refusing to pay a PCN and then having the matter dealt with in a law court – this was explained by John Dunne and more detail is available on the video of the meeting which is below.

Cllr Rex Walker ( Conservative – Gotham ward ) said:

‘I note it’s one year ago that we said we needed additional resource to tackle these issues [environmental crime] if I was offered the position we’re in now with 12 months ago I would have snapped anybody’s hand off.

‘The challenge then is in another 12 months to be just as far down the road again.’

Cllr Walker continued: ‘One of the things I thought was interesting is how we’re going to strike the balance between the easy stuff to detect which makes the money ( littering ) and the hard stuff to detect which costs the money ( fly tips ).

‘I understand the economics of it, but it would be interesting to hear both go your views ( RBC and WISE ) on if there is a tension there, and , if so, how we would move forward.’

John Dunne ( WISE) asked if the question could be broken done a bit for him because ‘I think it’s all hard.’

Cllr Walker said: ‘It’s indicative of the fact that there are 1,500 littering fines, and 80 fly tipping because if you walk down the street in West Bridgford for long enough you’ll pick people up [ for littering] and that’s great and that’s good, offending deserves enforcement…

‘…you suggested earlier that it took 40 hours to ‘catch’ a reported offender for dog fouling [after a community complaint – the time spent looking for the offence to happen again ] that’s what I’m getting at – that stuff is more expensive for you to detect, the more rural you are the harder it will be, you’re in it to make money, I get that – how do we strike that balance? Between the easier notices ( offences ) to detect and the harder ones?

John Dunne: ‘This is why we have a six month review and a nine month review before a future contract, it’s about getting the right people in the room and brainstorming it.

‘From a practical enforcement view I see it a little bit differently to the way you’ve articulated that. The reason I say that is, we focus on fly tipping – the only time we then go and focus on littering, is when we’ve got no more fly tipping to focus on.

‘We’ve received over 800 [fly tip ] complaints that have been investigated, from those investigations we’ve achieved 80 fixed penalty notices, if you were to give me 1,600 fly tip investigations, then I imagine we’d see 160 fly tip penalty charge notices, and a lot less litter penalty charges notices because we wouldn’t have time to look at the littler side of things –

‘…with regards to dog fouling this is very very intelligence-led, one was from a Ring doorbell – we were sent the video from the doorbell – of the dog doing what it did, and the address of where the alleged offender lived, this one only took us a half an hour,’

‘I think what I’m saying is, we don’t just go out in the morning saying we’re just going to look for litter there’s a much larger strategy than that based on dumped waste complaints…

‘…if we just focused on litter we wouldn’t achieve our 24-hour agreement to start an investigation into a reported fly tip –  you’re right fly tipping is much harder to detect, I know the officers would rather go on littering all day long if they had the choice, that’s why our strategy is investigating fly tips first.’

The meeting closed with the committee agreeing that the trial with WISE will be extended for a further 12 months.

Some residents have suggested that the enforcement is over-zealous – one told the Wire about her experience – she said:

‘I want to highlight an incident that I feel reflects a lack of consistency with govt messaging and policies during this period of heightened awareness and anxiety regarding cross contamination and infection risks relating to COVID.

‘Early this week ( mid June 2021 ) I was fined £100 by a waste enforcement officer in West Bridgford, Notts for pulling a piece of litter out of my dogs mouth and discarding it.

‘We were walking along a busy junction ( Radcliffe Road / Trent Boulevard ) I was with my 10 yr old son and our dog.

‘It happened v quickly. My dog grabbed what looked like a discarded napkin or food wrapper and I snatched it from her mouth and not flung it out of the way.

‘There was no visible bin nearby and I hadn’t wanted to hold on to the litter, not knowing what it had contained.

‘Within seconds a vehicle sped up to us, at traffic lights, mounted the kerb and a uniformed man approached us and introduced himself as a waste enforcement officer.

‘He then proceeded to serve me a fixed penalty notice of £100 for “re-littering” and told me that the litter had become my responsibility from the minute I touched it.

‘I have had a request to appeal declined by Rushcliffe waste enforcement, who tell me that I have to take the matter to court if I disagree with the fine.

‘In the current climate of heightened awareness of how infections spread and anxiety around COVID, I think this is poorly thought out and in need of review.

‘Faced with the choice between letting my dog eat something that might potentially have been harmful or taking the litter away from her, I chose the latter, but once It was in my hand and out of her mouth

‘My knee jerk reaction was to let go of it as I was aware it was dirty and potentially contaminated with any number of things.

‘It seems Rushcliffe are insisting that dog walkers, like me put our own health at risk, in order to dispose others people litter, or face fines. This seems very unreasonable to me. In my opinion, waste management should be targeting those who litter rather than those who have been affected by other peoples litter, like myself.

‘I’d be interested to know whether others have had experience of anything similar and whether other local councils are taking the same, heavy handed  approach.’

In response to the first appeal Rushcliffe Borough Council sent the resident the following note:

“The legislation relating to a littering offence states that a person is guilty of an offence if that person throws down, drops or otherwise deposits and leaves anything whatsoever in such circumstances as to cause, or contribute to, or tend to lead to, the defacement by litter of any place to which this section applies. I can advise by you taking the litter out of your dogs mouth and then throwing it back on the floor, you have taking ownership for the litter

However we now understand and the council confirm that upon a second appeal the resident’s penalty charge notice has been cancelled. No reason has been given.

We asked the council for further comment on the littering figures shown in the FOI request above as 88% seem to be from one offence-type they told us:

“Littering or fly-tipping of any kind is an offence and unacceptable anywhere in Rushcliffe, this trial is producing results that back up that message to residents, businesses and visitors to the borough.

“The partnership with WISE has to date assisted the Council’s objective to have even cleaner communities and it will be further discussed at Communities Scrutiny Group on July 22.

“The project’s approach is not to target any group or individual and it is monitored closely by the Council. Cigarette butts do account for a significant volume of litter on Rushcliffe streets and efforts will continue to educate and take action on anyone who drops litter or fly-tips in any manner.

“The Council continue to review and revise any operational parts of the partnership with WISE including when and where patrols take place. Appeals to any fine are thoroughly investigated by WISE and the appropriate action taken once reviewed.”

Have you been issued a penalty charge notice for littering in Rushcliffe?

If you want to let us know email newsdesk@westbridgfordwire.com

The meeting can be viewed on YouTube below – this agenda item is first and just over an hour long

Membership of the Communities Scrutiny Group below: