Friday, 19 November 2010

Local Paper Picks Up Redbridge's Fixed Penalty Zeal

The following is from this week's Wanstead and Woodford Guardian. Thank goodness the photo in the paper isn't also online - but many thanks to Dave who e-mailed to say I haven't changed a bit since I was 21!

By the way, if there is anyone reading this from Redbridge council, you only have until Monday 29 November to comply with my subject access request under the Data Protection Act. If you fail to meet that deadline, I'm ready to see a court order to force you to release the information you hold on me.

Campaigner condemns 'overzealous council officers'

Cracking down on flyposting has helped Redbridge Council rake in more money than most councils in the country in recent years.

However, a campaigner against the plan to put a police headquarters on Wanstead Flats for the Olympics in 2012 has criticised council officers as being overzealous.

Kevin Blowe is a lead campaigner against plans for the Metropolitan Police to have a base on Wanstead Flats in 2012.

He says he was issued with three fixed penalty notices by Redbridge Council for flyposting in relation to the Flats campaign, however, he was adamant it was not him as he was at work in Forest Gate at the time of the alleged offences.

Figures from the Department of Food and Rurual Affairs for 2007/08 and 2008/09 show Redbridge to be the most prolific local authority in the country for issuing fixed penalty notices to flyposters.

Between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008, the council issued 401 fixed penalty notices and from the 181 penalties which were paid, the council collected £8,230.

Only Milton Keynes Council and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council made more money for flyposting and the FPN's issued by Redbridge Council accounts for a quarter of the notices issued that year all over the country.

Between April 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, Redbridge Council issued 206 FPNs and collected £3,070, according to DEFRA figures.

For the amount collected from flyposting FPNs, the authority was fourth in the country only behind Newcastle upon Tyne City Council, Manchester City Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

Mr Blowe, 42, of Rothsay Road, Forest Gate, said: "The really surprising thing is not only that Redbridge are among the highest in the country but what really struck me is half of the notices issued last year were cancelled.

"If nothing else, that's going to bring the system into disrepute - all that effort for about £3,000 is astonishing."

DEFRA figures show that in 2007/08 Redbridge Council issued 401 FPNs and although none were cancelled, 220 were not paid and no further action was taken.

In 2008/09 the council issued 206 FPNs, with 101 being cancelled and 52 not being paid and no further action being taken.

Mr Blowe, who found out on October 18 that his FPNs had been waived, claims the council plucked his name off the internet in connection with the Flats campaign and decided to issue the FPNs .

He says his name was not on the flyers and the council has no evidence he was responsible.

He said: "I have been offered an apology 'for any distress', but that's simply not good enough.

"Council officials can't exercise what are considerable powers with a complete disregard for the law or their accountability to the public."

A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council said: "We can't comment on individual cases, however Redbridge Council now takes a proactive zero tolerance approach to flyposting and this has shown a substantial decline in this type of environmental crime.

"Our Enforcement Officers are not overzealous and act on behalf of the public interest.

"The majority of flyposting relates to one-off events which normally result in the organisers disappearing after the event has taken place, therefore we find that we are unable to pursue a prosecution and subsequently the matter has to be closed.

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