Wrexham Council have come under further pressure to cancel its contract with a controversial enforcement firm.
Members of the home and environment scrutiny committee yesterday backed proposals calling on Wrexham Council to terminate its contract with Kingdom and explore introducing a new model to deal with littering and dog fouling in the borough.
The proposals themselves were put forward by a cross-party task and finish group, which was set up earlier this year to review the council’s current contract with Kingdom and the issue of zero tolerance.
The contract itself has been seen as controversial amongst some councillors and members of the public, who have questioned the zero tolerance approach being applied.
Over the summer the group met four times and formulated the following recommendations:
– That the Committee consider the report and recommendations of the environmental enforcement task and finish group.
– The task and finish group recommends that the current agreement for environmental enforcement with Kingdom be terminated in accordance with the three months notice period specified within.
That the future provision of environmental enforcement in Wrexham be considered on a partnership, sub-regional or regional basis with other North Wales Councils.
– That the homes and environment scrutiny committee consider a future report outlining how this service can be provided on the above basis.
However Cllr David Bithell, lead member for environment and transport, said the local authority had a limited number of staff to carry out litter and questioned where the money would come from to seek alternative provision.
He added: “It is clear some members and the public want a different model, that comes with a cost. Doing it in house, comes with a cost.
“What type of model do members want? Someone had to pay for it. They are my concerns and the concerns of the department.”
Cllr Alan Edwards argued that members in the rural communities wouldn’t be worse off than what they were currently getting with Kingdom, claiming that they’d unlikely know any difference.
He said: “The town centre has been cleaned up, but as a rural councillor – and I know a few others – we haven’t seen any difference in litter or dog fouling in the surrounding areas.
“To me the budget implication didn’t come into it as they’re basically not doing the job in the rural areas.
“I appreciate councillors will have to be wary of budget implications. The town centre may suffer a bit but I don’t think the rural areas will.”
Cllr John Phillips queried if there were resources in place to deliver the service ‘in-house’ if the Kingdom contact was cancelled and if there would be any enforcement in the interim period.
One suggestion put forward was the establishment of a regional approach, which could involve all six of the local authorities across North Wales.
However it was pointed out that this could take a “considerable amount of time”, with 12-18 months cited as a potential timescale if such an agreement could be met by all or some of the North Wales councils.
It was also noted that only one meeting had taken place so far.
Darren Williams, service manager for the environment department at Wrexham Council, said: “It is an unusual situation as normally when we are asked to devise options on how to look after potholes etc, we generally have cash and know what it can buy us.
“We are starting from zero to deliver options you can deliberate over, it is important you think about that.”
Cllr Carrie Harper said that Kingdom had already walked out on two neighbouring authorities and that she was “surprised there is not an exit strategy in place based on possibility of that happened.”
She added: “It’s my understanding that there were no fixed penalty notices issued in August because of staffing issues, so if we were to have no provision in the short term it wouldn’t make any difference at all.
“The whole justification of bringing Kingdom in was because the in-house service wasn’t performing. The information I’ve seen is dog fouling was performing very well pre 2011 and was one of the best in Wales before it was merged with car parking.”
Cllr Bithell explained there was a “significant number of staff” at that time and that the council has undergone around £56 million of cuts over the past few years.
He added that any future enforcement model would be “determined by what budget we have got or haven’t got”.