It’s dirty, it’s smelly and it’s difficult to deal with – but we didn’t shy away from it.
Local authorities across the country have to tackle dog mess and litter, and Keep Britain Tidy says that this is the first sign of social decay.
We were frustrated that profit-driven private sector companies were chasing ticket targets, and we thought there must be a better way. So, we launched our own ethical local authority trading company aimed at improving the environment, not just its bank balance.
Just three years later and we are working with 10 public sector partners delivering a seamless and efficient enforcement service at little or no cost to any of our partners.
Our approach to developing a sustainable service was to use one-year trials. Our open and collaborative approach helped build trust and an understanding of the processes involved. Continuous feedback helped us adjust and, most importantly, build the right culture.
Governance is delivered through a shareholder committee of three councillors supported by the chief executive, Section 151 and monitoring officer. Shareholders exercise control through articles of association, reserved matters, appointment of directors and auditors, and approval of business plans. The board of directors consists of paid officers who meet quarterly and report on a biannual basis.
Prior to starting, the average number of fines issued by partners was in the 10s. Most acknowledge their enforcement was not as effective as it could be. In a year, the company issued approximately 9,000 fines, with no complaints about officer behaviour being upheld. Four of the partners are listed in the top 10 of fine issuing councils in England. The average payment rate is 87% and 99% of those prosecuted are found guilty.
Guided by the ethical purpose of the company, staff are empowered and trained to make appropriate decisions at the lowest level – which means they really care about what they are doing.
We are so pleased that we are able to help so many partners and make such a positive difference to their local environment.
This service has proven to be cost-neutral for our partners and we estimate this innovative approach has saved the public sector approximately £1.3m so far – as well as creating 15 new jobs.
Gill Kneller is chief executive of East Hampshire DC and Havant BC