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Policy Committee – 5th December 2007

Report of the Head of Environmental Health and Housing
Ward(s) affected:                    All

1.         Purpose of Report – To inform Members of the proposed strategy to implement
           the Clean Neighbourhoods Agenda, seek approval of the enforcement policy and
           set fixed penalty notice levels, allocate a budget for graffiti removal and agree a
           timetable to review the resources required to implement the strategy at six and
           twelve months.

2.         Recommendations – That the Committee

2.1        Approves for consultation purposes the Clean Neighbourhoods Strategy and
           supports the on-going work to improve the quality of the environment through cross-
           council action and joint working with external partners, with the emphasis on
           education and publicity followed by targeted enforcement as necessary.

2.2        Approves the Environmental Enforcement Policy set out in Appendix D to this

2.3        Approves the setting of Fixed Penalty Notice payments at the default level as set by
           the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as shown in Appendix B to
           this report but with a discounted rate for early payment for the littering offence
           only, and a mechanism for payment in instalments for those on low incomes.

2.4        Approves an annual budget of £5000 to fund the cost of graffiti removal in Craven in
           the circumstances set out in paragraph 1.13 of the report.

2.5        Notes the implementation of the Clean Neighbourhoods Strategy will be reviewed at
           six and twelve month periods with a report brought back to the Policy Committee on
           the priority areas and resources needed to implement the strategy.

3.         Report

3.1         The Council has previously taken little formal enforcement action over low level
            environmental crimes, such as littering, fly posting, nor more serious crimes such as
            fly tipping and illegal waste disposal. The main emphasis of action has been the
            provision of the dog warden service to tackle irresponsible dog owners who fail to
            pick up after their dog has fouled or allow their dog to stray. This action has
            comprised of a combination of education campaigns, patrols and targeted
            enforcement. The Audit Commission reported in June 2005 following an audit of

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            Waste Management Services that there was a lack of enforcement action on
            littering and fly tipping problems due to a lack of resources. This resulted in the
            creation of a two-year post within the Environmental Health and Housing to
            strengthen enforcement carried out by the Environmental Protection Team and
            coordinate action across the Council to solve environmental crime problems.

3.2         With the introduction of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 the
            Council has the opportunity to review how it tackles environmental crime. The Act
            consolidates and improves existing powers and provides new powers to tackle the
            issues listed below, further details are found in Appendix A:

      3.2.1 Crime and Disorder (new powers)
      3.2.2 Abandoned Vehicles (new and enhanced powers)
      3.2.3 Nuisance Vehicles (new powers)
      3.2.4 Litter and refuse (enhanced powers)
      3.2.5 Graffiti and other defacement (new powers)
      3.2.6 Illegal Waste Movement and Disposal (new powers)
      3.2.7 Dog Control (new and enhanced powers)
      3.2.8 Night Time Noise Nuisance (new and enhanced powers)
      3.2.9 Wider use of Fixed Penalty Notices
      3.2.10 Powers to Parish Councils

3.3         Craven District is a relatively clean area compared to more urban areas. 26% of
            Craven residents surveyed in 2006, however, were dissatisfied with the cleanliness
            of the area. With an increasing expectation on the quality of life and the quality of
            the built and natural environment, there is an increasing emphasis being placed on
            the Council to address these anti-social problems. Members will no doubt be aware
            of problem areas about the District.

3.4         Tackling environmental crime issues is not easy and cannot be done by the action
            of one organisation or one tactic alone. Guidance issued by the Department for the
            Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Communities and
            Local Government suggests that a combination of tactics should be used. This
            could include working with partners in housing associations, highway authorities
            and planning authorities to design out problems by better street layout and facilities
            to reduce littering, graffiti, fly posting and abandoned vehicles. Supporting and
            improving street cleansing and ground maintenance to ensure the rapid removal of
            litter and fly tipping, and appropriate enforcement of the environmental legislation.

3.5         In the context of rural authorities in North Yorkshire the scale of this problem does
            not require the provision of a dedicated enforcement team. A review of the North
            Yorkshire group of authorities indicates that they are either following traditional
            enforcement action, or mainly using promotion and education campaigns with
            periodic short programmes of targeted enforcement should this be necessary.
            Appendix C in this report indicates the strategy recommended for Craven.

3.6         The enforcement policy attached at Appendix D indicates the range of enforcement
            actions that are open to the Council and the most appropriate response to typical
            problems. This shows a graduated approach to enforcement with informal action

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            through to prosecution for the most serious situations. The Clean Neighbourhoods
            and Environment Act 2005 has introduced the wider use of the fixed penalty notice
            to add to the enforcement options available to the Council. For situations where
            prosecution of offenders is considered appropriate, the legislation allows for a fixed
            penalty notice to be offered instead when it is reasonable in the circumstances to
            issue the fixed penalty notice. Should the recipient not pay the fixed penalty notice,
            this may result in prosecution for the original offence.

3.7         The Council can set the level of these fixed penalty notices from a range defined in
            statute. Members, therefore, need to take a view on the most appropriate level to be
            set locally. The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has set a
            default level to be used nationally where councils do not set a level locally. Most
            council‟s have set their penalties at this default value. To set a higher level the
            Council would have to show that the scale of the problem across the District
            justified a higher fine, and this cannot be shown, but a lower level would not act as
            a deterrent.

3.8         It is recommended that Members set the level of its Fixed Penalty Notice payment
            at the default level for all offences. The exception would be for the dog fouling
            offence as this is set at £50. The Craven District Dogs (Fouling of Land) Order 1998
            was made under previous legislation which set a fixed value. Should new dog
            control orders be made under the provisions of the Clean Neighbourhoods and
            Environment Act 2005, the level of penalty could be set by the Council (see
            Appendix B for the values). The level of Fixed Penalty Notices can be reviewed at
            any time should the local circumstances change.

3.9         In relation to the new dog control orders it is intended to consult the community on
            the demand for control over the leading of dogs in public places, banning of dogs
            from particular areas or controlling the number of dogs walked together in public
            places. Following this consultation a report would be brought back to Policy
            Committee in late 2008 to seek approval for commencing the process of creating
            new dog control orders should this be the outcome of the consultation.

3.10        Guidance issued by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on
            the use of fixed penalty notices suggests that there should be a mechanism in place
            to ensure good payment rates for the fixed penalty notices. This should include a
            process to help those on low incomes and a discount for early payment. For those
            on a low income, Members are asked to allow Officers discretion to allow the
            penalty to be paid in instalments over 6 months. As indicated Members could
            choose to set a discounted rate should the penalty be paid early, in less than ten
            days, rather than the limit of fourteen days. Some have suggested in city areas that
            this has improved collection rates, although the process is more burdensome.
            Locally some authorities have set a discounted rate for all offences, although most
            have made a judgement on each specific offence. City of Bradford and City of
            Leeds have taken the view that offences in relation to fly tipping and illegal waste
            movement are too serious to allow a discounted rate, but have set a discounted rate
            for early payment for the littering offence. At this stage it would not be possible to
            make a discounted rate for early payment for the dog fouling offence as the Craven
            District Dogs (Fouling of Land) Order 1998 was made under previous legislation.

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3.11        It is recommended that Members set a discounted rate for early payment for the
            littering offence only.

3.12        The problem of tackling graffiti has been greater than envisaged. It is very important
            that the Council has a “zero tolerance” of graffiti, to prevent the problem escalating.
            To this end, it is imperative that any such defacement is dealt with speedily, in
            conjunction with the Police. North Yorkshire Police have reported 12 incidents of
            graffiti during October/November. In addition about 25% of these incidents appear
            to be racially motivated. The new Local Government Bill requires the Council to take
            action to promote community cohesion.

3.13        Some property owners, for whatever reason, may not clean the graffiti from their
            building. As there are difficulties in taking action against graffiti on privately owned
            buildings, the Council as a last resort, may wish to remove the graffiti, especially in
            the interests of community harmony, and seek to recover the cost from the owner.
            As the Council has no legal power to recover this cost, it is recommended that the
            Council has an annual budget of £5000 to remove graffiti in these circumstances.

3.14        With the Environmental Health and Housing now coordinating action on litter,
            graffiti, fly posting and fly tipping, it is intended that Environmental Health and
            Housing will take joint ownership with Waste Management Services of the best
            value performance indicators (BVPI) 199a, 199b, 199c, and 199d (National
            Indicator NI 195 and 196 from April 2008 onwards) to inform the process of
            coordinated action to seek improvement in the cleanliness of the District.

3.15        The cross council approach has commenced with the launch of the „Keep Craven
            Clean‟ campaign in the community newsletter „Your Craven‟ and the closer working
            together by key service units, see the initial work described in the Clean
            Neighbourhoods Strategy in Appendix C to this report. Members will now see some
            council owned vehicles displaying a new logo promoting the „Keep Craven Clean‟
            message and soon some staff will have a distinctive uniform.

3.16        As there has been little formal enforcement work undertaken previously it is
            recommended that the strategy be reviewed at six months following the consultation
            process and monitoring of work load to finalise the priority order of the different
            work areas and be reviewed again after twelve months to identify the further
            resources needed to continue implementing the strategy. It is recommended a
            report on the reviews be brought back to Policy Committee.

4.         Implications

4.1         Financial Implications – Ongoing staffing costs, and as these issues have not
            traditionally been dealt with by way of formal enforcement action will lead to an
            increased work load for legal services. An annual budget of £5000 be found to fund
            the cost of graffiti removal in Craven.

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4.2         Legal Implications – Duty of the Council to carry out statutory functions in a
            consistent and proportionate manner and in accordance with the Council‟s
            enforcement policies and the national code for crown prosecutors.

4.3         Contribution to Corporate Priorities – Protecting and enhancing the environment;
            the maintenance of a clean and health environment is a significant factor in resident
            satisfaction levels, and supports tourism and community well-being; consistent
            enforcement ensures a level playing field between businesses and supports
            economic development. Environmental crime may be damaging to community

4.4         Risk Management – Failure to carry out statutory functions would lead to criticism
            by auditors, DEFRA and the general public.

5.         Consultations with Others – Legal Services, Financial Services and neighbouring
           local authorities.

6.         Access to Information : Background Documents

            2006 Survey, Best Value 89 – Satisfaction with cleanliness by ward

7.          Author of the Report – John Pickles, Senior Environmental Health Officer;
            telephone 01756 706382; e-mail:

            Note : Members are invited to contact the author in advance of the meeting with any
            detailed queries or questions.

8.         Appendices
           Appendix A – Main Provisions of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act
           Appendix B – Table of Fixed Penalty Fines
           Appendix C – Clean Neighbourhoods Strategy
           Appendix D – Environmental Enforcement Policy

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