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Clearing waste and enforcing the law: One year of Council enforcement work

9:00 am, Monday, 13th March 2023 - 1 year ago

Environment and community safety

“A huge part of the Council’s work is upholding and enforcing the law,” said Councillor Ron Shepherd, portfolio holder for safer and stronger communities at North East Lincolnshire Council, reflecting on a busy 12-months for the local authority’s enforcement teams.

The comments come as figures reveal the extent to which the Council is clamping down on people flouting the law in the borough.

In the last 12-months, officers have issued over 5,500 Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for illegal parking between April 2021 and March 2022, and more than 5,300 between April 2022 and January 2023. 

Most recently the Council drew attention from national newspapers after installing CCTV cameras outside some of the most gridlocked schools in the area, issuing fines to parents for dangerous stopping outside school gates.

A 'no stopping' sign
A no stopping sign outside a local school

Since then, 118 PCNs have been issued in total to parents stopping illegally outside school gates. 79 of the PCNs have been issued at Signhills Academy in Cleethorpes, with the remaining 39 being issued at Old Clee Primary Academy.

Councillor Shepherd explained: “We did a lot of work with schools to make that happen. For a few years now we’ve had school headteachers telling us about the congestion outside their schools, about parents pulling up in the middle of the road and throwing their kids out of the cars, and some have even reported near-misses outside the school gates.

“We knew we had to do something, and I’m pleased to say that already the statistics are demonstrating how badly this was needed, and our school heads are feeding back that it was the right decision and it is having an impact. The spaces outside our schools are safer.”

Another challenge facing the Local Authority is the sale of illicit cigarettes. It is estimated that around 11% of all cigarettes consumed in the UK are illicit.

Why is this important? These cigarettes don’t pay tax, meaning that the UK taxpayer misses out on an estimated £2-billion a year that could be spent on hospitals and schools.

There’s no knowing what’s inside illicit cigarettes, and reports suggest that the profits of the trade often sponsor criminal gangs.

Goods seized from a Trading Standards raid, with Bran the specialist sniffer dog.
Photo credit: Stuart Phillips of BWY Canine Ltd

“Our Trading Standards team are incredibly active in combating the sale of illicit cigarettes. A lot of people don’t realise how dangerous these things are,” said Councillor Shepherd.

“Over the course of the last year, we have seized 352,000 cigarettes, over 167kg of tobacco, and more than 4,300 illegal vapes. The proceeds from the sale of these if they had reached the streets would’ve gone to fund things like illegal trafficking. It’s absolutely vital that we send a message to criminals that we do not want these on our streets.

“Of course the other issue is that because these illicit cigarettes are cheap to buy, they result in more children becoming addicted to tobacco products.”

The Council has executed 30 warrants in the last 12 months to premises it suspects of selling illicit cigarettes. Undercover Trading Standards officers also carried out a test purchase operation, during which every premises visited failed the test by trying to sell illicit cigarettes to an undercover officer.

The Council also operates a huge CCTV network, covering significant areas of the borough. This, according to Councillor Shepherd, is a huge advantage when tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.

“We’ve recently invested £2.2-million in our CCTV network to upgrade it. We’re now in a position where we can liaise with colleagues in the Police and other emergency services to manage any situation that arises.”

It was recently reported that the Council’s CCTV operatives were able to spot someone stuck in the sand on Cleethorpes beach, directing the Coastguard to their aid.

A blurred photo of the newly upgraded control room
The newly-refurbished CCTV Control Room

“We share a lot of footage with the Police to be used as evidence in cases. In just one month already this year we’ve passed Humberside Police footage to assist with investigations into road traffic collisions, a suspected knife crime, a suspected assault, and to aid in the safeguarding of a vulnerable person.

Taxi licensing is another important part of enforcement work. The laws that surround taxi licensing include things like the maintenance of vehicles and the displaying of tariffs.

“We have a really good cohort of taxi drivers who are committed to the job and are aware of the importance of their industry in getting people to where they need to be in a safe and convenient way.

“But for the minority that flout the rules, our licensing team are pretty hot on it. In this year already the team have carried out 487 inspections of individual vehicles, and a further 70 roadside inspections which culminated in some 17 warnings being issued.”

Finally, there’s waste. Every Council in England is facing a daily battle with things like littering, dog fouling and fly-tipping.

Some 700 fines were issued by North East Lincolnshire Council in just six months of last year for fly-tipping, littering and other environment-related offences.

This included some 34 fines for littering, 6 fines for fly-tipping and 91 fines for littering from vehicles.

In addition, the Council took 18 people to court for failing to pay fixed penalty notices.

Councillor Stewart Swinburn, portfolio holder for environment and transport, said:

“It might seem like trivial stuff, but it’s not. If we want visitors to come to our area and enjoy it, we need it to look the part. Nobody wants to visit a town centre if there’s litter everywhere and people weaving in and out of pedestrians on their bikes.

“The upgraded CCTV network is helping. It allows us to spot offences such as fly-tipping and capture images so we can follow that up.

“We’ve also had LA Support officers out in our town centres and our high streets patrolling these areas, and stopping people for things like littering and cycling in pedestrianised areas.

“Fly-tipping is a big issue. We’ve had a team going out every week to clean-up some of our fly-tipping hot spots, and we’re now in a position where we’re able to share photos of the culprits and pursue them through prosecution.

“It does feel sometimes like a never-ending cycle, but we are making progress.”

After what has undoubtedly been a bumper year for the Council’s enforcement teams, there’s no sign of the work slowing, with the benefits of the newly upgraded CCTV network still being seen, and the Council doubling down on its determination to route out those flouting the law.

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