On 15 May, Panorama’s programme Inside the Litter Police exposed the shady and dubious dealings of the private litter police, who are paid per fine issued.
These included: evidence that these wardens are paid a bonus according to volume of fines, and this bonus can reach £1000 a month; evidence that wardens pretend to call the police; images of wardens saying they will hand out fines ‘like Smarties’.
These practices have been suspected for some years, but this is the first definitive video evidence, and so is very significant.
One might have thought that councils would be shocked by the programme and reconsider their contracts with the company. So far, they have been fudging the issue, mumbling about ‘additional staff training’, and gaining ‘written assurances’ to guarantee ‘appropriate skill, care and due diligence’.
These responses entirely miss the point. The unjust practices of these litter police are the inevitable result of issuing fines for profit. Until this practice is stopped, the injustices will continue.
Here are councils’ statements:
- Ealing Council – Panorama exposed cases of people fined for putting recycling out a day early and pouring coffee down the drain. The council said: “Like many councils we use a specialist company to carry out enforcement at no expense to residents. Unfortunately in these two cases officers made an error of judgement and we have cancelled the fines and apologised. Although the vast majority of fines are correctly issued and all of our prosecutions have been successful, we expect the highest standards and a common-sense approach to be taken.”
- Thurrock Council said: “Thurrock Council immediately sought and received written assurances from Kingdom following the Panorama broadcast that services are provided in line with the terms of their legal agreement, particularly relating to ensuring appropriate skill, care and due diligence.”
- Maidstone Council – The council took the wardens off the streets, but only for 24 hours – they were back the day after. The council said:”In light of the recently aired Panorama investigation on BBC 1 we have made the joint decision with Kingdom to remove the officers from duty today. All services offered by this council are subject to a process of review in an effort to ensure that the high standards, objectives and values we expect are delivered by partners and contractors. As with any relationship there are times when training needs, working practices and errors in operational judgement need to be scrutinised. We are currently speaking with Kingdom to review how we can continue to provide the best service to our residents and when officers will be reinstated.”
- Ashford Council – Panorama filmed a warden saying ‘When I was doing it in Ashford, I was hitting out quite a lot of tickets and I think the most I brought home just on the bonus was £987’. The council said: “In light of the recent Panorama programme on litter enforcement, together with Kingdom we have decided to take this opportunity to give our wardens some important additional staff training exercises so they can continue operating fairly and effectively.”
- Thanet District Council said: “We have weekly discussions with Kingdom Services as part of its contract and has spoken to them following this BBC programme. They have provided assurances that there is a new team in place and that officers are working to a high standard. Performance will continue to be monitored on an ongoing basis.”
- Conwy Council said: “We are seeking clarification from Kingdom regarding issues raised in the Panorama programme to ensure the council is satisfied with Kingdom’s practices, as we would with any contractor.”
- Denbighshire Council said: “We will review the content of the programme and decide whether we need to be taking any appropriate steps to address any issues highlighted by the programme.”