Concerns have been raised about the operator in charge of Hyndburn council’s new crackdown on littering, following complaints in other parts of the UK.
Last month we reported that Kingdom Services have secured a 12-month trial from the council from October this year to enforce litter and dog fouling laws in the borough with £75 on-the-spot fines.
Hyndburn council, which is teaming up with visible patrol teams, estimates up to 110 penalty notices will be issued every week, the equivalent of £35,000 a month in fines.
However, concerns have been raised after dedicated campaign groups criticising
Kingdom’s operations were set up in Wales and Liverpool.
In particular, Kingdom patrol teams have been accused of focusing on issuing penalties to smokers dropping cigarette butts at the expense of tackling other forms of litter.
In response Kingdom, whose private enforcement teams also operate elsewhere in East Lancashire, rejected criticism and said councils carry out stringent checks before deploying them.
A Facebook group called North Wales Against Kingdom Security has more than 10,000 members while a similar social media campaign group has been set up in Liverpool.
The Liverpool Echo reported in March that Liverpool city council had intervened to instruct the company to stop officers fining people simply for smoking in outdoor areas classed as ‘no smoking’. The council said that was outside Kingdom’s remit.
Gwynedd Council in North Wales entered into a trial agreement with Kingdom in February this year - only for it to be cancelled less than two days later.
A similar partnership between Kingdom and Anglesey Borough Council was not renewed after the initial 12-month trial ended in March this year.
However, a Kingdom spokesperson insisted pulling out of Wales was their decision, adding: “Councils voted to extend contracts - in all cases Kingdom chose to withdraw from the councils in North Wales.”
Hyndburn Conservative Coun Josh Allen said he will raise concerns at the full council meeting. He said: “We want to be ensuring actual perpetrators are caught and prosecuted, not innocent people. Surely there are other companies who can carry out this work? Everyone agrees fly tipping and littering is an issue that needs tackling, but we don’t want to scare people out of the centre in case they may be fined for essentially being there.”
Last year Kingdom began a 12-month trial with Blackburn with Darwen council, who say they are ‘very happy’ with the operation. The firm also has a three-year contract with Burnley Council.
A spokesperson for Kingdom said: “Cigarettes are the most common type of litter found on our streets, they are a hazard to environment and the law states that you can be fined for incorrect disposal. We urge people to think before they throw. Councils carry out stringent factual checks before deploying us. People shouldn’t believe everything they read in the press.”
A Hyndburn council spokesperson said they were unable to comment on the working arrangements or contracts that Kingdom has with other local authorities.
The firm tasked with enforcing litter laws in Hyndburn will impose a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to keeping our streets clean and tidy.
Targeting Accrington, Great Harwood and Oswaldtwistle town centres at first, Kingdom Services will have the power to deliver £75 on-the-spot penalty notices to anyone caught littering.
It is not yet known how many officers will be deployed in the borough, although it has been confirmed the company is provisionally set to start operating from October 1.
Kingdom will collect 90 per cent of fine revenues under the scheme, with the remainder taken by Hyndburn council.
John Foley, a market trader in Liverpool, has launched the ‘Litter PLOD Kingdom Liverpool’ Facebook group - which campaigns against some of the officers’ alleged actions.
He told the Liverpool Echo: “No-one likes litter, certainly not me, I don’t agree with people dropping cigarettes - but when you get a private company coming in and putting profit as a priority, it’s not right.”
North Wales Against Kingdom Security, set up by B&B owner Peter Rourke, has been campaigning against Kingdom for more than a year.
In Hyndburn, there will be a ‘public education’ period for the first two weeks on Kingdom’s operations before any fixed penalty notices are given.
Hyndburn council leader Coun Miles Parkinson says the council will be raising awareness of the need for people to dispose of litter responsibly and clean up after their dogs during this period. He said the council had a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to litter but they would ensure fairness.
Coun Parkinson said: “We really don’t want to be issuing tickets - we’d love to be able to just say to people ‘don’t drop litter’ but that doesn’t work.
“We live in a society where people think it’s okay to throw cigarette butts on the floor and other litter when it simply isn’t - we want to send a strong message to people.
“The contract will be reviewed regularly and if it is not working as it should then we will let Kingdom know that.”
Coun Jim Smith, executive member for environment for Blackburn with Darwen council, said: “Kingdom are lawfully operating on the council’s behalf to enforce litter and dog fouling legislation in the borough.
“We are very happy with the service and it has provided some great results including dog fouling penalties increasing from around five a year to 34 since October and around 500 people being prosecuted for littering offences.”