Saturday 13 October 2012

Newham Council Apologises For Heavyhanded Action By Its Enforcement Officers

In September I reported that campaigners trying to save the Old Spotted Dog pub on Upton Lane had been stopped from leafletting outside of Forest Gate station and given a advice warning by Newham's 'Law Enforcement' officers. After activists received legal support from a local solicitor and the issue was raised at a public meeting at Durning Hall, something surprising happened - the council actually apologised.

A letter from Planning Enforcement Manager Christine Lyons, published on the Save the Old Spotted Dog website, says:
I understand there was an issue prior to this public meeting which left you and your group unhappy with the actions of this Council. It would seem that your campaigners were leafleting outside Forest Gate Station and received advice from the “law enforcement officer” that you were to cease this activity immediately. I am unsure as to the reasoning behind this request but have been informed that this advice was incorrect. I have spoken at length with the Service Manager for these officers Mr Al Thomas and he can only apologise for the actions of his officer and should you wish can be contacted on 02033733084 to discuss this matter.

It is of course gratifying that council has admitted its error, but it wouldn't have happened in the first place in the 'Law Enforcement' officers who intervened had actually understood the limit of their powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. What this points to is a lack of basic training, summed up by the fact that officers evidently had no idea what constitutes 'designated land' under the Act but arbitrarily chose to apply their sweeping powers anyway. If this had been an entirely isolated incident then perhaps it could be brushed aside as a simple mistake, but this is not the first time that there have been complaints about enforcement officers, either about the misapplication of anti-social behaviour powers or a certain high-handedness in the way they are enforced.

The council's apology, whilst welcome, means little if the same situation keeps arising again and again in the future, because officers do not recognise that enforcement powers are potentially oppressive and intimidating if not used sparingly and correctly - or if the latest talk of a 'crackdown' gives the misleading impression that, for the greater good, no-one is really going to care if a few errors occur. It really shouldn't be necessary for local people to be forced to raise complaints or seek legal advice if enforcement officers are properly trained and act with caution and common sense.

If anyone has a story about the way that anti-social behaviour powers are incorrectly enforced in the borough then please let me know - I'd like to start compiling evidence and publishing it. You can e-mail me here.


Anonymous said...

"powers are potentially oppressive and intimidating if not used sparingly and correctly"

I agree!!

People don't dump furniture in front gardens. They just don't know understand you have to call the council to book a collection.

Anonymous said...

These Street Enforcement Officers can't catch the 'real' criminal fly typpers with the lorry loads.

The council is better off given residents verbal advice, rather then acting in a oppressive way.

Many people will buy a sofa perhaps a few times in their lives. So they may not be aware of correct disposal. People may assume if they leave it in the front garden someone will take it/reuse it or perhaps the rubbish men take it away.

Newham could have a much friendier, loving attitude towards its residents.....

Anonymous said...

K.B. "no-one is really going to care if a few errors occur"

There are serious impacts. On four separate occasions, people have dumped things my front garden or near my property. (I don't understand why this happens, when the Council will pick up Bulky item for free).

However, I do worry, if someone receives a Clearance letter, they may decide to dispose rubbish on to someone elses front garden.

On the most recent occassion, I have reported flytipping to Newham Council and they failed to pick it up on 3 seperate occasions.

If Newham issue a Fixed Penalty Notice. How can you want to challenge it?. What are the options?. It is not right that people have to waste money on Solicitors, especially if they value their character.

Anonymous said...

These officers seem to be poorly trained!

Anonymous said...

These officers are under pressure to meet a target of 30 fixed penalty notices per month. If they fail to meet the target they can be sacked.

Anonymous said...

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