Northampton's new litter prevention company 'paid officers bonuses for issuing fines', according to Panorama

Fly-tipping in Baukewell Court, Lumbertubs
Fly-tipping in Baukewell Court, Lumbertubs

The company hired by Northampton Borough Council to fine people caught littering in town paid its officers bonuses for issuing penalties.

In December, Northampton Borough Council announced Kingdom Services had been awarded an environmental enforcement contract. A spokesman for Northampton Borough Council said: "A key part of our contract stipulates Kingdom cannot reward staff in any way based on tickets handed out."

But it has emerged that several allegations were made about the company in an undercover BBC Panorama report into Kingdom Services Group Ltd, broadcast in May last year.

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In some instances, people were fined incorrectly. Luke Gutteridge was penalised after he accidentally dropped a small piece of orange peel.

Even though Mr Gutteridge picked up the peel he was accused of littering, but he contested the case and the fine was dropped.

Mr Gutteridge's mother Rita, who works at a law firm and helped contest the case, told Panorama: "Had we not appealed, or we weren't in a financial position to, he could have ended up with a criminal record for life, for dropping a piece of orange peel.

"It's just nonsense, and just disgusting to be quite honest."

Another instance saw a retired civil servant in west London overturn a fine for pouring coffee down a drain.

After complaining the fine was dropped, and Kingdom Services sent a £20 gift voucher.

Elsewhere in west London, a ballet and pilates instructor from Ealing was issued with a fly-tipping fine outside her home after she put her recycling out on the wrong date during the Christmas holidays.

She told Panorama: "They're targeting the wrong people."

An undercover BBC reporter was sent to work inside Kingdom's enforcement team in Kent.

During her training, the reporter asked a senior staff member how officers were paid and the manager said they were paid £9.47 an hour.

He added: "And then every ticket over four, you get a little competency allowance."

When asked if this was like a bonus, he replied: "It's a bonus."

"When I was doing it in Ashford, I was hitting out quite a lot of tickets and I think the most I brought home just on the bonus was £987," he added.

The trainer also told her that some officers pretended to call the police in order to make people pay a fine.

One officer told the reporter that he often pretended to call the police to encourage members of the public to give their personal details, after which a ticket can be issued.

Kingdom said that it was important that the public know what could happen if they are convicted at court.

Any decision to prosecute alleged offenders is made by the local authority, not Kingdom.

The Chron has approached Kingdom for a comment but received no reply.

However, in a statement to Panorama, Kingdom said it offered competency allowance.

It said the allowance was discretionary and only paid if officers met all their basic competencies.