11:26AM, Thursday 17 June 2021
A controversial private enforcement company tasked with tackling a littering ‘epidemic’ in the borough could part ways with the council when its contract ends later this year.
District Enforcement has spent the past nine months policing environmental crimes in the area including people who drop cigarettes or rubbish.
The firm has issued 2,786 fixed-penalty notices since being appointed but it has come under fire over its enforcement tactics with claims the company has targeted cigarette smokers to make a quick buck.
District Enforcement generates its money by keeping all the fines that are dished out.
A meeting of the Royal Borough’s communities overview and scrutiny committee heard on Tuesday that the council is considering its options for when the District Enforcement pilot ends in October.
Councillor Gurch Singh (Lib Dems, St Marys) told the committee that the local authority’s partnership with District Enforcement had caused ‘reputational damage’ to the council due to the public criticism over the enforcement tactics.
He added: “Maidenhead town centre is in a critical condition, as is Windsor town centre, and every day this contract is in place its bleeding cash out of the borough.”
Figures revealed at Tuesday’s meeting showed that 2,103 fines have been issued to people dropping cigarette butts since the pilot launched.
St Mary’s ward, which covers Maidenhead town centre, accounted for 33 per cent of fines, 987, while Eton and Castle ward, covering Windsor town centre, recorded 35 per cent of all penalties.
Simon Dale, interim head of highways at the council, said the pilot was aimed at tackling small-scale littering which has become ‘a real epidemic of a problem’.
He added: “For me it’s a range of measures which combat criminal and anti-social behaviour and I don’t think we should be ashamed as a borough of having that in our locker to try and change people’s behaviour.
“We have very few repeat offenders and I think it’s a lesson to people. It’s a deterrent and having that tool in your kit is extremely useful overall in trying to tackle the curse of littering.”
Options under consideration for the council include offering a short-term 14-month contract to a chosen provider to tackle environmental crime when District Enforcement’s contract ends.
In December 2022, the local authority could then take over the running of the service, combining it in a joint-contract tackling parking and highways enforcement.
This could mean money generated through littering fines could be reinvested into council services, Mr Dale added.