1,000 signatures reached
To: Wirral Borough Council
Cancel/don't renew Kingdom's Environmental Enforcement Contract
We the undersigned, residents of and visitors to Wirral, request that Wirral Borough Council cancel and not renew, the contract they have entered into with Kingdom Security Group (and it's subsidiaries) with immediate effect. The contract in question relates to environmental services being provided, most notably to enforce environmental laws via the issuing of fixed penalty notices(FPNs).
Why is this important?
Wirral Borough Council engaged Kingdom to issue fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for environmental crimes such as littering, non-clearing of dog mess, etc within Wirral’s boundaries. Kingdom is a private limited company and as such, is profit driven. There is evidence that the Enforcement Officers (EOs) acting on behalf of Kingdom are financially incentivised to issue as many FPNs as possible. This financial motivation has seen the most vulnerable people in society, who are least likely to resist such accusations, deliberately targeted with FPNs of £80.00 for minor infringements, without being given the opportunity for errors to be rectified. It has been noted that the EOs focus on areas with the heaviest footfall, i.e. shopping centres, which whilst having a litter problem, may not have the worst in the borough. We are concerned that in focusing on these areas the Company is not filling its contractual obligations borough wide. This again suggests they are looking to maximise profits by issuing as many tickets as possible. Figures from 16.12.15 – 15.12. 16 show that of 11711 FPNs issued 91%(10719) were for dropping cigarette butts. We agree this is anti-social behaviour to the detriment of the environment, but we do not believe, given the litter problem in the borough, that the percentage of fines issued for such an offence is proportionate to the general litter problem. We also note that 25% of FPNS were appealed against. The EOs persist in ignoring both the law and their own and WBC guidelines when issuing FPNs for accidental littering – a major issue we have is that once the FPN is issued the offending item (be it a cigarette butt, dog dirt, etc) is not removed. This means the litter is then left for street cleaners to remove, at the expense of WBC.
We have concerns about whether RIPA 2000 is being used inappropriately to allow the “Enforcement Officers” to work covertly. We do not believe the offences they are fining people for warrant the use of covert tactics. It has been reported to us time and time again that badges and recording devices are not revealed until the last minute. We are concerned as to whether the EOs have the appropriate licences and security clearance for filming members of the pubic for evidence.
EOs have been shown to manipulate facts and withhold pertinent information to convince people they have committed an offence, leaving them in fear of further action (evidence available upon request). We are concerned that the initial appeals process is handled inhouse by Kingdom and feel they have a financial motive to not review the appeals without prejudice. We understand that whilst Kingdom receive a large share of the FPN fee any court costs are paid by WBC, again maximising the Company’s profit whilst exposing WBC to costs.
I have never received a FPN although I know people who have. It seems these days everyone within Wirral knows someone who has. One such case is quoted below:
“It happened last year, but I’m still upset about it, it was all a big con. I’m a female pensioner and I was alone with my two dogs. I was picking up after my male dog when a young man approached me and told me my female dog had pooped, and I hadn’t picked it up. I told him she had already had a poop in my garden, so I asked him to show me where it was. He took me to where a large man was standing over a round dried up poop that must have been there for hours. I pointed that out to them and the large man said he had seen her do it. I had a doggy bag so used that to pick it up and asked them to feel that it was cold (therefore not freshly done) and they refused. It was only when they then asked for my name and address that they showed me a badge, which he pulled out of the neck of his top where it had been concealed. I was taken to court twice as I refused to pay the FPN as I knew I was innocent of their accusations. I was told there was video evidence against me which I asked to see, and I was told I had to apply to see it, which I then did. When I saw the video, it showed them asking me for my details and showed a used doggy bag in my hand. The screen then went blank for a few seconds and when it came on again it showed a piece of grass with a hand covering what was alleged to be the poop. We thought the video had been edited – a woman I spoke to at Kingdom said it was impossible but at our insistence she showed it to a colleague who said it WAS possible the video had been edited. About 10 days before I was due back in court for the third time I received a letter, saying the case had been dropped. The whole ordeal was so stressful that my GP put me on anti-depressants, but there was no way I would plead guilty to something that was false.”
Issues with Kingdom’s methods are not unique to Wirral, seeming to be a problem wherever they operate. There is evidence that Kingdom’s EOs frequent supermarket car parks which are cleaned by the supermarkets at no cost to Wirral Borough Council, to issue FPNs. We have had confirmation from Asda that they wrote to Wirral Borough Council, November 2017, withdrawing permission for Kingdom to operate on their premises and it has been reported that they are banning Kingdom from operating on their premises in Liverpool and North Wales too:
Sainsburys have also advised us that they have withdrawn permission for Kingdom to operate at their Upton superstore and are reviewing the other Wirral stores. The litter problem appears no better throughout the borough than when the contract commenced in 2015. We urge Wirral Borough Council to find a better solution to the littering problem, that doesn’t leave people in fear of visiting certain areas. One such scheme could be in house, uniformed officers who are not being paid incentives per the number of fines they issue. We are happy to meet with the appropriate WBC employees to discuss how this could be funded.
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