Saturday 28 January 2017

Duffy rubbishes Council litter contract but does he know about BHP?

Cllr John Duffy, elected to the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee by the Labour Group on the evening of the tube strike, has lost no time in setting out his stall in an email to fellow councillors.
Dear All,

As you know I have been elected to the scrutiny committee, albeit the leadership of the Labour party wished to rule my nomination out of time so the leader could play musical chairs with who he wanted to scrutinise the cabinet decisions or council contracts.

Now that I have been endorsed by the full council. I wish to state my view on scrutiny. I believe that just as a puppy, is not just for Christmas, Scrutiny is not just for committees. Members of the committee are duty bound to raise issues of waste and financial mis-management by the Cabinet.

Therefore I listen to Monday night's full council meeting, which seemed to allow cabinet members to make statement without explanation. They were also allowed to avoid questions by saying the problems were caused by a lack of resources. Whereas I believe many problems are caused by government cuts. However the cabinet has to take responsibility for bad polices making which undermining our ability to be efficient and use our limited resource’s to ensure service improvements. Those who care about these issues should read on and those who do not should stop reading now.


On Monday Cllr Southwood, said we have successfully taken 50 residents to court for non-payment of June 2016 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for mostly smoking related litter. However as far as I understand the true number is 41. The problem of smokers litter around tube stations and bus stops is an easy way to make money from FPNs as a smoker about to go into a tube station or get on a bus have no alternative but to put out their fags before boarding their train or bus, particularly as we have no cigarette butt disposal bins place close by.

The government in the middle of devastating cuts to service,did however allowed L/As to keep the 100’s thousands of pounds income from those FPNS and was this was one of the only ways councils could raise money for environmental protection.

Unfortunately and bewilderingly Cllr Southwood and the cabinet decided not to use the money for environmental protection. Instead the cabinet decided to outsource the service to Kingdom Securities (KS)  therefore ensuring the majority of the income was not used for Environmental protection but was paid in profits to the private company. KS introduced the service using cheaper less qualified staff and ensured the council agree certain conditions.

(i) They received £46 for every ticket issued, whether the fine was paid OR NOT.
(ii) Residents were not allowed a discount if they paid early unlike all other fine given out by the council.
(iii) The council meets all the costs of appeals and legal support and reviews.
(iii) The service did not undergo a VFM review

These conditions were introduced purely to increase KS's profit and is the cause of the council having no increased resources to deal with other environmental enforcement .The figs show-using June (the period Cllr Southwood mentioned) as an example. The council have received £49k and paid £35K to KS (approx. £25k pure profit a month for KS), whereas the council makes £9k a month after write –off, costs of admin and legal costs, work stations, free use of our car pool etc.


I believe that bad policy making by the lead member and cabinet has cost us £25K+ per month of income and  has had the effect of ensuring that we have no strategy or resources for other environmental enforcement. Whereas dog–ends concerns were less than 1% of complaints that are 99% of our enforcement (FPN) strategy.

For example, when Cllr Crane on Monday night rightly raise the issue of dumping behind shops in a private area by the Hyde in Colindale on behalf of his residents.Which is an ongoing issue which has caused concern from residents about the unpleasant and nasty conditions they are forced to live with.They also complaint the place was overrun with rats.

Cllr Southwood reply (I think) went something like this saying we have not the resources or trained officers to deal fly tipping on private land and was therefore was difficult to deal with. Cllr Southwood reply ignores the reality of the situation. There is legislation EPA (S59 private land) where the owner of the land can be fined £5000 if they do not clear the land and £500 a day if they fail to comply.There are also ways of working with the Environment Agency  to ensure any companies using the alley way for fly-tipping are dealt with.However you need qualified, trained officers with a full understanding of legislation, to carry-out surveillance, interviews and ultimately prosecutions. However the cabinet policy of introducing cheap (LLW) unqualified officers has left us deprived of well trained officers to deal with issues as well as ensuring we have no resources.

I believe Scrutiny committee should be asked to look at the way we organise our enforcement section, to ensure VFM, flexibility ,priorities and increased investment.They should also look at the way the FPN are issued and why 154 (20%) are written off, remember we already paid KS over £7k   for the issuing of those ticket and writing them off is a direct lost  and if that is constant over a year it would mean a loss of £84k per year.

I intend to talk to the Chair of Scrutiny to see if there are ways the committee can  review and recommend service improvements.
Cllr Duffy may also be interested in the contract awarded to Kingdom Security on Brent Housing Partnership's estates.  This is Kingdom's own account - they don't seem aware that BHP is soon to be taken back in-house by the Council.:
Kingdom is pleased to have won a new contract with Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) to help tackle anti-social behaviour in north west London on their behalf. The new contract will start on 9th January 2017.

Kingdom’s Environmental Protection Division will be providing a reception & concierge service in some of BHP’s properties, and will also be carrying out uniformed patrols, both of which are intended to provide reassurance to residents that anti-social behaviour is being tackled and that the lives and properties of residents are being protected.

Anti-social behaviour is something that can affect the lives of a great many people, making their day to day existence a real misery and leaving them feeling helpless, desperate and with a reduced quality of life. It often includes but is not limited to the following:
  • Vandalism
  • Graffiti
  • Fly-posting
  • Nuisance neighbours (noisy or abusive neighbours)
  • Intimidating groups taking over public spaces
  • Acting in a rowdy or inconsiderate manner
  • Littering
  • Being drunk in public or street drinking
  • Aggressive dogs
  • Prostitution
  • Begging
  • Abandoning vehicles
  • Using vehicles inappropriately
  • Trespassing
We have previously written in detail about tackling anti-social behaviour – our in depth article on the topic, including more information about what it is, who to contact to tackle it, and what action agencies and individuals can take can be found here.

Kingdom will be acting on behalf of Brent Housing Partnership (BHP), an arms-length management organisation (ALMO) and community housing company owned by Brent Council. In 2013 BHP signed a 10 year management agreement with Brent Council. The council owns the homes and takes responsibility for housing policy and strategy, whereas BHP is responsible for day-to-day management of housing services to over 9,500 council tenants and 3,000 leaseholders.

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