I put a number of questions to Brent Council about the proposed Litter and Flytipping patrols contract LINK which is being discussed at Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday next week.
These are questions and responses:
1. The report states that the Kingdom operatives will be paid at a lower rate than current Brent staff because they perform a different role. One of the differences cited is that they will not represent the Council in Court as part of their enforcement role. I would have thought that if there is an appeal against a fixed penalty notice or a refusal to pay that the Court would require the officer who spotted the infringement to appear as a witness. Is that your understanding?The Kingdom role will be to undertake patrols to issue on the spot fines for littering. Our own waste enforcement team undertake more complex and weightier investigations, mainly of illegal dumping offences. The two activities are intended to be separate but will complement each other. Our own officers are professional enforcement officers who will investigate and prepare cases and then attend court to present them. It's complex and usually done without witness evidence.In terms of Kingdom acting as witnesses, last year they issued over 50,000 FPN’s nationally and had less than 30 trials whereby the offender pleaded not guilty. Approximately 75% were paid which negates the need to prosecute. Out of the remaining 25% the vast majority plead guilty by letter or personal appearance or are found guilty in absence. The remainder of cases are remanded for a trial. In these instances, there may be the need for the issuing officer to attend court as a witness only. They would not be preparing and presenting the case.2. Can you clarify the total number of staff that Kingdom would deploy on the contract. Will there be a supervisor and manager in addition to the four ‘on the street’ operatives? Would the supervisor also be deployed on the street? Would there be a separate Kingdom admin support worker or would that be provided by the Council?The Kingdom model proposes the following dedicated personnel. The supervisor would be deployed on-street as necessary.4 Enforcement officers1 Senior Enforcement Officer1 Supervisor / Team Leader.1 Admin officer3. As the contract was not put out to competitive tender is it possible to give like for like costings for in-house provision of the service?
The costings from Kingdom and their anticipated resource allows for a like for like comparison with an in house service. However, each job role would be subject to the council's job evaluation process. That review has not been undertaken so the exact cost of the staffing element is not known. Also, any assumption that existing resource can be used to support an in house model is not tested. One benefit of the Kingdom model is that it complements rather than draws from existing resource. An in house model would obviously see the council retain all fines income so it could create more revenue, although experience in Ealing suggests that non-payment may be a more significant factor with an in-house service. The downside is that it would transfer the financial risk from the contractor to the council. The council would need to commit to the cost of staff and equipment without the absolute certainty of recovering that cost. Also, it is hoped such an initiative would correct behaviour over time so less fines would be issued. A contracted pilot arrangement offers better flexibility in that it can be changed or terminated without liability.
What's intended is a pilot and this will allow us to test the model and costs. When the full procurement process commences, any in house option would be considered alongside a bid from Kingdom (should they bid) and any other firm. The benchmarking from the pilot will ensure we have a clear idea of costs to compare.