Controversial 'litter police' handed extra 12 month contract by council

A District Enforcement officer in Nelson
A District Enforcement officer in Nelson

Pendle's controversial private "litter police" District Enforcement, have been given a second chance by the council.

In an unusual step, Labour and Conservative councillors on Pendle Council's Policy and Resources Committee agreed to vote together in favour of retaining the services of the private company on the basis of a 12 month trial contract.

The Liberal Democrats, who have been ouspoken critics of District Enforcement's tactics - in particular seemingly targeting cigarette smokers dropping their butts - voted against the proposal.

The Labour leader of the council. Coun. Mohammed Iqbal said: "Clearly not everyone in the borough, including the Lib Dems, were in favour of retaining the services of District Enforcement.

"However, we've decided to give them a further 12 month trial with a lot of stipulations. When the Conservatives first gave out the contract to District Enforcement it was very loose. We as a council will now have a lot more oversight.

"In particular, councillors will meet with District Enforcement officials every three months to discuss any concerns or complaints the public have. There was a lot of criticism that the company was unfairly targeting cigarette smokers and we have made it clear that their focus should also be on dog dirt and general litter.

"I get the criticism that people have made and in an ideal world we would carry out litter enforcement in-house but we just don't have the resources. This new contract will free up our own teams to focus on big issues such as fly-tipping across the borough."

Local groups Pick Up For Pendle, Friends of Catlow and Southfield and Trawden Parish Council were also in favour of retaining a litter enforcement service in the borough.

The leader of Pendle Conservatives, Coun. Nadeem Ahmed, focussed on the successful statistics that District Enforcement, working with Pendle Borough Council’s Environmental Crimes Unit, had managed to achieve.

He said: “Comparing and contrasting with the year before District Enforcement is startling. Our Pendle Environmental Crimes team has been able to focus entirely on fly tipping and has raised its prosecution rate from 44 to 144.

"Meanwhile the District Enforcement team has issued over 4,000 Fixed Penalty Notices, with 109 for dog poo fouling, which compares with just 13 the previous year.

“If Pendle Council was to attempt to replicate this service, it would cost over £200,000, instead of which, this contract is actually revenue generating for the council. If you don’t litter, you won’t be fined”, he concluded.

Other councillors giving speeches in favour of retaining the District Enforcement contract were Couns Sarah Cockburn-Price, Paul Foxley and Ken Turner.

Coun. Cockburn-Price explained that best practice as laid out by Keep Britain Tidy was Education, Engagement and Enforcement.

“Only if we have all three elements will we see behavioural change”, she said.

She also welcomed the revisions to the District Enforcement contract which will now also tackle littering from cars and include visits to schools and volunteer litter picking events, as well as featuring a quarterly Councillors’ Panel to deal with any complaints fairly.