After several hours of debate, Wrexham Councillors have recommended a task and finish group scrutinise a series of concerns regarding Kingdom Security and their current contract with Wrexham County Council.
The controversial firm came under fire from many Councillors at the Homes and Environment scrutiny committee last week, who took the opportunity to highlight concerns about the effectiveness of the contract, whether it breached the councils own Environmental Enforcement Policy with its zero tolerance approach, as well specific concerns about individual cases.
Plaid Cymru Cllr Carrie Harper who sits on the committee said: " We had a detailed report, including comments from the Chair of the councils Audit Committee Mr Jerry O'Keefe, who expressed concern regarding how the Kingdom contract breached the councils own Environmental Enforcement policy. This policy clearly recommends a staged approach to fixed penalty notices (FPN's) for littering, including informal warnings before enforcement action is take. Clearly this is not happening with Kingdom and we're all hearing complaints from local residents."
"There was also a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of the contract, Kingdom were originally engaged in response to public concerns about dog fouling and generally in order to make Wrexham's streets cleaner. Looking through the monthly figures for the issuing of FPN's, it is clear that the vast majority of fines are issued for cigarette butts, with very few for dog fouling and other types of litter. This amounts to a bin bag per month and as was pointed out during the debate, the rubbish people are fined for remains on our streets as Kingdom refuse to allow residents to pick it up."
Cllr Ronnie Prince expressed his concern about the firm targeting one local woman at a supermarket. After accusing her of littering outside of the premises, he explained how the Kingdom officer had then followed and harassed her as she attempted to do her shopping inside the store. The woman felt intimidated, to the extent that she left her shopping in the aisle and went home in order the escape the operative.
Other Councillors also expressed their concerns about fines being issued to under 18's, the targeting of vulnerable individuals and the amount of local residents being left with a criminal record over non payment of fines.
Whilst all agreed that littering offences need to be tackled, the general consensus was that a new, less aggressive strategy was needed, in line with the needs of the county borough. Councillors felt that many of the concerns raised warranted further investigation, including looking at whether or not the current contract can be re focused on the types of litter residents are concerned about, such as dog fouling. The committee recommended a task and finish group explore these issues further and report back with recommendations.
The officers present also confirmed that a review of the contract was due to take place.