Will councillors on Wirral Council end Kingdom’s controversial dog fouling, litter, smoking, flytipping and business waste enforcement contract?
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The most popular video in my YouTube channel (over the week of 14th February 2019 to 20th February 2019) has been Wirral Council’s video footage of the public meeting of their Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on the 30th January 2019.
I have permission from Wirral Council to re-use their video footage having made a request for re-use exercising a right under regulation 6 of the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015. No charge was made by Wirral Council for re-use.
From a journalism perspective there are two items of wider public interest that happened at this meeting. The first is the Local Plan Progress Update given by David Ball starting at 3:53 (which lasted just over eight minutes) and the second is the Overview of the Environmental Enforcement Contract (Kingdom) starting at 12:05 lasting 2 hours 49 minutes and 41 seconds.
There were also (heard on the tape but not fully seen) around a dozen members of the public present to hear the Kingdom item.
The public debate about how laws are enforced by Wirral Council through Kingdom follows Kingdom being awarded a 3 year contract last year (with an option to extend for a further 3 years).
Certainly some councillors had to be educated at the public meeting about the whole process of FPNs etc as some continue to get their facts wrong about it (not helped by both Wirral Council and Kingdom giving out inaccurate information at the meeting).
There are many varied complaints about how Kingdom carry out enforcement on the Wirral. However Michael Fisher (Legal Director, Kingdom) explained that if Kingdom had carried out enforcement like Wirral Council’s Community Patrol had previously then it wouldn’t be commercially viable for them as a company.
Interestingly he also explained how their contract with Liverpool City Council (which came to an end at the start of this year) that after a pilot project Liverpool City Council changed the payment mechanism (Kingdom have a few different standard forms of contract).
That really does sum up one of the core issues people have with Kingdom carrying out enforcement, as the company receives money for each justified FPN issued. It means there is a financial incentive to issue FPNs in both issues where it is a legally grey area or where it should be obvious to anyone that it is inappropriate to issue a FPN.
Wirral Council’s policy is that FPNs can’t be issued to those under 18. The issue of teenagers and children littering around schools was brought up, with the answer being given that no enforcement can be carried out (apart from outside schools presumably any staff or parents dropping litter).
However leaving aside those who are under 18, Kingdom were keen to dispel any impressions that they were targetting people for FPNs on any sort of protected characteristic, such as age, gender, ethnic minority etc.
Taking January 2019 as an example, 272 FPNs were issued to females and 595 FPNs were issued to males (perhaps I’d better declare an interest at this point as I am male).
At the 2011 census the population of Wirral (although the above figures may include visitors too) was 52% female and 48% male.
Out of 867 FPNs you’d therefore expect about 451 to be issued to females and 416 to males. Obviously there would be some differences from that just by statistical chance, but the figures are so skewed I came up with some theories as to why.
631 out of 867 were for either cigarette related litter or for smoke free legislation contraventions. Whereas 17.0% of the male population smokes, only 13.3% of the female population smokes. This also explains why the age group that has the most FPNs issued is between 20 and 40 years.
But that’s still not enough to explain all of the difference.
The rest I have theories on but will have to remain a mystery for now!
The Liberal Democrat councillors on Wirral Council have requested a public meeting at Wallasey Town Hall of all 66 councillors to discuss ending the Kingdom contract (one of those 66 is the Mayor chairing the meeting who will be neutral and abstain on votes). Whereas the sole Green Party councillor and Conservative councillors also have concerns it remains to be seen what the group of independent councillors and ever shrinking group of Labour councillors decide (now down to 36 out of 66).
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