Tactics used by a controversial enforcement firm contracted by local Councils to crackdown on littering have been exposed by an undercover investigation.
Earlier this month a reporter from ITV Wales’ current affairs programme Y Byd ar Bedwar spent a week patrolling the streets of Anglesey with officers from Kingdom Services group wearing covert filming equipment.
Anyone caught littering, breaking parking regulations or allowing their dog to foul in a public area are liable to be slapped with a £75 fine by the company’s enforcement officers. But the company has attracted criticism for using heavy-handed tactics across the four counties in north Wales they are responsible for policing.
The Undercover reporter witnessed one incident on Anglesey where a Kingdom officer followed a woman with two young children for ten minutes demanding that she accept a £75 fine.
Earlier the woman had been spotted removing her shoe in the street. The Kingdom officer claimed that a piece of the insole had dropped on the floor.
The officer only gave up the chase when the woman took sanctuary in a friend’s house – no fine was issued.
According to Y Byd ar Bedwar’s undercover reporter: “The lady just took her shoe off and emptied it. It could have been anything, a stone a leaf. I didn’t see it as being fair.
“We were in a car following her, watching her and she didn’t know we were doing that. I didn’t feel comfortable with that, I wasn’t comfortable at all.”
Kingdom, a private company based in Newton-le-Willows, have also been accused of putting pressure on staff to issue fines to increase their profit margins.
Although they deny that officers are under pressure to issue fines the journalist was told on several occasions by senior staff members that she was expected to issue at least four fines a day in order for the company to “break even”.
On her third day on the job the journalist is called into an office by a supervisor and told: “Nobody’s giving anybody targets… It’s one (ticket) every two hours…on a normal day? That’s not anything too strenuous”.
The Labour MP for Anglesey says he doesn't want to see this type of enforcement on the streets of north Wales.
The fact that they are willing to follow people to their homes and challenge them the whole way. It’s certainly something we don’t want to see on the streets of Britain, north Wales and definitely not on Anglesey.
Last week, Anglesey County Council announced that they were scrapping Kingdom’s Services once their trial period with the company comes to an end in May.
A spokesman for the local authority said: “Our agreement with Kingdom came to an end by mutual agreement.”
“Without a doubt the trial period with the company has been a success and the partnership with Kingdom has lifted the profile of our ongoing work to keep the streets of Anglesey clean”.
Kingdom Services Group confirmed that they had brought the partnership with Anglesey to an end for commercial reasons.
They responded to the programme by saying:
Kingdom are a privately owned company who provide excellent value to the taxpayer through the return of substantial funds to the local authority.
The company reject any accusation that officers are heavy handed or issue fines for trivial issues. They said, fines are only issued when “proportionate and appropriate”.