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Agenda item

Environmental Enforcement

Decision:

(a)       That the Committee supports the initiative and recommends to Cabinet that it approves the protocol detailed within the report for low level crimes and the issue of Fixed Penalty Notices for littering and dog control offences.

 

(b)       That the Committee recommends that Cabinet approve the proposal to offer Town and Community Councils the opportunity to support additional Enforcement Officers in their own areas.

Minutes:

                        Prior to consideration of the report on Environmental Enforcement the Chief Officer (Streetscene and Transportation) distributed a supplementary note to the Committee on income from Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs).

 

The Chief Officer (Streetscene and Transportation) introduced a report to review the Council’s Enforcement Policy in respect of littering.  He provided background information and advised that following a recent review of the Council’s Environment Enforcement Service, the Council’s own Enforcement Officers had resumed responsibility for the enforcement of all low level environmental crimes (citing littering and dog fouling as examples).  He continued that the Cabinet had requested a refresh of the protocol for issuing FPNs and particularly the zero tolerance approach previously adopted by the Council’s enforcement teams which had been strictly implemented across the County.  The Chief Officer advised that the report provided clarity on the approach to enforcement activities in the future and invited the Regulatory Services Manager to present the report.

 

The Regulatory Services Manager reported on the key considerations, as detailed in the report.  She referred to the procedures for issuing a FPN where an Enforcement Officer had reason to believe a person had committed an offence and there was sufficient and appropriate evidence to support a prosecution in court should the FPN go unpaid.  She explained that accidental littering would not be dealt with by means of a FPN.  Referring to dog control the Regulatory Services Manager explained that dog control patrols continued to take place in public areas, including areas subject to a Public Open Space Order (PSPO), which included officers undertaking plain clothes patrols.

 

                        The Regulatory Services Manager advised that Flintshire County Council’s Enforcement Officers were responsible for patrolling across all areas of the County to ensure all wards received a reasonable and appropriate level of enforcement presence, however, a daily presence in all areas could not be guaranteed.  She continued that during a meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 27 November 2018, a recommendation was put forward that consideration should be given for Town and Community Council’s to fund additional Enforcement Officers within their areas.  The Regulatory Services Manager reported that to assess the level of interest in the proposal the Council would contact all Town and Community Councils and offer the opportunity to fund additional Officer time in their areas at an agreed daily rate which would take into account that all revenue generated through the Penalty Charge Notices would be retained by the County Council.  Following the approach to Town and Community Councils an exercise would take place to determine the sustainability of a scheme and consideration as to whether the project could be implemented with existing staffing numbers or whether additional Officers would need to be recruited. 

 

                        Councillor Andy Dunbobbin referred to the supplementary information which had been circulated to the Committee at the meeting and expressed concerns regarding the reference to an income target of £20k per annum, which equated to 266 FPNs per year. He acknowledged the need to enforce action against low level environmental offences with intent but commented that the issuing of FPNs was not intended to be an income generation exercise.    The Chief Officer advised that there were no monthly targets set for Officers and the number of FPNs issued would vary each month.  He explained that the figures provided were indicative based on the number of notices previously issued.  The Chef Officer advised that the Council would rely on the professional judgement of its Enforcement Officers to exercise a balance between education and enforcement with the approach being that the Council would carry out appropriate action against people who intentionally littered or did not dispose of dog waste appropriately.

 

                        Councillor Chris Dolphin referred to the guidance in the report that if an individual was deemed to have dropped litter deliberately and walked 5 metres away from the litter then enforcement action would be taken, and suggested that the distance should be reduced to 3 metres.  The Regulatory Services Manager explained that the distance stated was a general guideline only and if an individual had dropped litter they would be given the opportunity to pick it up and dispose of the waste appropriately.  She reiterated that the emphasis was on a balance between education and enforcement.

 

 Councillor Dolphin commented on the level of enforcement presence to undertake car parking management and other environmental enforcement activities.  The Regulatory Services Manager explained that the shift-patterns and start and finish times of Offices were amended during the summer and winter months to coincide with a change in the daily activities of the public and information concerning recurring issues. 

 

Councillor Dennis Hutchinson raised concerns on the issue of dog fouling which he said was an ongoing problem in his Ward.  He expressed further concerns regarding dog control and commented on the risks to safety arising by dogs which were not restrained or kept on a lead in public areas.  The Regulatory Services Manager confirmed that dog control patrols continued to take place in public areas, including areas subject to a Public Open Space Order, and officers were talking to all dog walkers on their patrols to provide information on exclusion areas and how to dispose of dog waste appropriately.  She advised that there were 7 Environmental Enforcement Officers whose combined roles were to deliver enforcement activity for environmental crimes.  Discussions were taking place with a neighbouring authority to potentially share some back office functions which may release funding to increase the number of frontline officers to undertake enforcement activity in the future.

 

                        Councillor Carolyn Thomas acknowledged the concerns raised by Councillor Hutchinson and commented on the need to work closely with local communities and area co-ordinators to gather intelligence and information on recurring issues and problem areas and times, particularly in relation to dog fouling. 

 

                        Councillor Joe Johnson suggested that additional signage be used in areas where dog fouling occurred to inform the public that the area was being monitored and of the need to dispose of dog waste appropriately.  Other possible measures including the use of spray paint, sound devices, and stencils, to highlight problem areas was discussed.

 

                        Councillor Sean Bibby commented on the cost to the Authority of providing ‘clean-up’ services and enforcement control activities and emphasised the importance of improved communication and educational campaigns with the general public to educate and inform the general public.

 

Councillor David Evans referred to the proposal to contact all Town and Community Councils to offer the opportunity to fund additional Enforcement Officer time in their areas and expressed concerns that some Town or Community Councils may not have the financial resources to join the scheme.  Councillor Carolyn Thomas advised that all Town and Community Councils would continue to receive a service and the funding of an additional enforcement presence would not affect the existing rotas and the current arrangement in an area.

 

Councillor Chris Bithell expressed the view that ‘tougher’ action should be taken against environmental crime and individuals who intentionally committed an environmental offence.  He reiterated the comments by Councillor Sean Bibby regarding the expense to the Authority of providing enforcement and ‘clean up’ services during ongoing financial austerity and said there had been a deterioration in public standards which he felt would continue unless robust and effective enforcement measures were implemented. 

 

The Chair commented on the need to educate young children to prevent such problems arising in the future and suggested that Primary schools in Flintshire be approached to determine their interest.  The Programme Manager explained that a letter had been sent to headteachers of all Secondary Schools in Flintshire with an invitation to receive a presentation from the enforcement team which had been accepted by some schools.  She also referred to the information which was made available through other groups and organisations to raise awareness in schools and amongst the general public.

 

In response to the suggestion from the Chair that work be carried out with pupils in primary schools the Chief Officer agreed that proactive work could be undertaken between local area co-ordinators and primary schools.  The Chief Officer suggested that a further report be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee to provide an update on the number of FPNs issued.

 

Councillor Paul Shotton commented that both Primary and Secondary schools in his Ward had been enthusiastic regarding involvement in environmental and enforcement activities.  He said local residents had also been positive in volunteering assistance in monitoring their local area.  Councillor Andy Dunbobbin referred to the work which was undertaken by community initiatives and schemes and cited the ‘Our Backyard’ scheme as an example. 

 

The Committee supported the initiative and recommended to Cabinet that it approved the protocol detailed within the report for low level crimes and the issue of Fixed Penalty Notices for littering and dog control offences.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(a)       That the Committee supports the initiative and recommends to Cabinet that it approves the protocol detailed within the report for low level crimes and the issue of Fixed Penalty Notices for littering and dog control offences.

 

(b)       That the Committee recommends that Cabinet approve the proposal to offer Town and Community Councils the opportunity to support additional Enforcement Officers in their own areas.

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