Mid Ulster District Council is to hold a workshop to discuss the future of its service level agreement with a private litter enforcement firm, with one councillor claiming the initiative is “failing miserably”.
At a meeting of the council’s development committee on Thursday, June 16, members were provided an update on how Waste Investigations Support and Enforcement (WISE)’s team of five local litter enforcement officers are operating in the borough.
They were told the team undertakes patrols working in shifts to provide a seven-day-a-week operation including mornings and evenings.
In April, councillors accepted that all litter is litter but noted WISE needed to enhance focus on dog fouling and litter other than cigarette butts.
The report claims that over the last seven weeks there has been a “tangible increase” in food and drink related fixed penalty notices (FPNs) and an increase in dog fouling fixed penalty notices.
The statistics show that between January 18 and March 22, there were 59 food and drink related fixed penalty notices issued while between March 23 and May 27, there were 77 FPNs issues for food and drink offences.
Between January 18 and March 22 there were five dog fouling FPNs issued and this increased to seven between March 23 and May 27.
Despite this numbers, councillors are still not satisfied that the scheme is working as intended with Sinn Fein Councillor Ian Milne calling for a review involving community groups from the districts villages and towns.
“I would like to ask that we have a six-month review of how things are progressing,” he said.
“At that review we could have reports from officers containing the views of those groups who do litter picks in the villages and towns to see if they notice any less litter in the areas.”
His party colleague, Councillor John McNamee seconded the proposal saying a lot of councillors would like to see this scheme reviewed.
“There is still the belief it is simply targeted at high foot fall areas and more interested in cigarette butts than anything else,” he said.
Councillor Barry Monteith said he was of the view Dungannon and Cookstown are being targeted by WISE officers and claimed the initiative is “failing miserably”.
“Yes, litter was an issue, but dog fouling was the main issue which was consistently raised by councillors and members of the public,” he said.
“The complaints I get about dog fouling have not diminished since this initiative and a review, I think, would be very timely as this has been, I think, an unmitigated disaster.
SDLP group leader, Councillor Malachy Quinn said he agreed with Cllr Monteith, telling the chamber dog fouling is still “out of control” in Torrent.
“It seems these guys are simply trying to take the easy way out and are targeting areas of higher population and aiming for cigarettes, that is not the issue,” he said.
“I am getting complaints about dog fouling and other rubbish not cigarette butts. This is not working as intended and it is hard to argue it has been anything but an unmitigated disaster.
However, Councillor Frances Burton urged caution in writing off the initiative too soon reminded members that cigarette butts are still litter.
“We are still fairly early in this process, we need to give it a bit of time and we may not have seen cigarette butts as a big issue but it still is litter,” she said.
“The review will tell us what is going on but there are a lot of rural villages that would really like to have these people come in.
“I really feel we have to give this time. I don’t know what the right answer is but I still think we are better to be doing this.”
Council’s assistant director of health, leisure and well being, Kieran Gordon said a review would take place with members toward the end of the summer.
“This review will enable a discussion and decision to be taken about this programme,” he said.
“It is a 12-month pilot that takes us to January 17 next year and we need to decide if the pilot continues or comes to an end.
“We will organise a workshop with democratic services and will work with them to get a date in the diary and we will aim to do that before we come back to this committee in September.”