Greens force Labour to end failed outsourcing experiment

Set up a council-run litter enforcement service for the city, say Greens 

Brighton and Hove could soon have a council-run litter enforcement service after pressure from Green Councillors led the Labour Council to u-turn on outsourcing to private company 3GS.

Greens raised repeated concerns about Labour’s management of the litter contract with 3GS after the service provoked numerous complaints from residents and local businesses.

Under the contract, 3GS take 60% of the fines for littering and 70% for flytipping and do not deal with litter left on the beach. The approach of some 3GS operatives has also been widely criticised as ‘heavy handed,’ with many residents complaining of being given no warning or right to appeal fines. [1]

Describing the contract as the ‘abject failure of the outsourcing of enforcement to a private firm,’ the Greens have repeatedly called on Labour to implement a more accountable, customer focused council-run service.[2]

Despite earlier claims by Labour Councillors that the private contract was ‘tackling the problem head on’ a report going to Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee today states that the 3GS contract will not be renewed.  [3]

Councillor Leo Littman, spokesperson for Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, commented:

“After three years of running the Council, Labour in Brighton and Hove are finally starting to recognise the damage they are doing to the city. The contract awarded with a self-congratulatory fanfare to 3GS – which resulted in countless complaints from residents and local businesses – is being ended. At one point Labour spoke of how the contract sent out a ‘strong message’. Yet taken together the amount of litter, fly posting, dog mess and graffiti in the city is as bad as I can remember it.

“Sadly Labour’s mismanagement of  the 3GS contract is another example of how they have failed to get a grip on waste and litter in our city. After the Greens pressed repeatedly for the Council to run its own littering and fly-tipping enforcement service, Labour now say they will explore bringing this work in-house, where it always should have been. In December last year, Green MP Caroline Lucas was told that the Council had no plans to do this; yet just last week Cllr Gill Mitchell stated the Labour Council had been ‘thinking for some time of bringing the service in-house.’  How many more of their mistakes will Labour try to unmake before voters give their verdict on 2nd May?” 


[1] A petition from local residents calling for an end to the 3GS contract gathered over 1,000 signatures and described the enforcement approach as “a campaign of heavy handed enforcement without regard for proportionality of common sense. Residents who accidentally put cardboard from small businesses (such as home run businesses) in domestic recycling bins, were fined up to £600 PER cardboard box.”

Previous comments from the Green Group include:

Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty, Green Group Convenor, previous comment for the Argus April 2018:

“Greens have not shied away from saying the polluter should pay and we believe higher fines will help combat environmental damage. However, we have had long-standing concerns about how the Labour Council has managed the contract with 3GS, whose heavy-handed approach has led to numerous complaints from residents and businesses. If 3GS were to adopt a fairer approach, residents and traders would be more likely to offer their support, and the Council could use the higher fines to combat environmental damage. The Council says there is no scope for warning before fines which is causing considerable ill feeling. Sadly this is yet another example of how the Labour Council has failed to get a grip on waste and litter in our city.”

Green Councillor Pete West, as quoted in the Argus, January 2018:

“As Greens our primary concern is to protect our environment from littering and fly tipping and to see that waste services are used appropriately. Labour promised to ‘get the basics right’ but walk through the city and it won’t be long before you come across graffiti, dirt, grime, an overflowing bin or litter. We are not the least impressed by the way the Labour Council is handling the 3GS enforcement contract. According to the Council, there is no scope for warning before fines. Green Councillors have received a great many complaints from both residents and small businesses who have been at the receiving end of a heavy-handed approach being taken by 3GS on behalf of the Council. One included a resident whose teenage son with a learning difficulty was given no consideration or reasonable adjustment before being slapped with a £75 fine for a cigarette end. On top of this poor customer service, the delivery of the contract itself is hardly fit for purpose – 3GS never go on the beach, where a great deal of non-degradable plastic is littered, causing damage to the environment, birds and fish.”

[2] At a meeting of BHCC Full Council in July (18/07/2018) Green Spokesperson for Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee Cllr Leo Littman asked:

(8) Councillor Littman – 3GS

Councillor Littman asked the following question, “In March 2016 taking out the 3G Contract, Councillor Mitchell was quoted as saying “We are often asked to take the tougher stance around anti-social behaviour, such as dropping litter, fly posting and dog fouling and graffiti,” this new scheme along with the publicity and education programme will tackle the problem head on and send out a strong message that deliberate antisocial behaviour which blights our city will not be tolerated. After nearly two and a half years of this new scheme taken together the amount of litter, fly posting, dog mess and in particular graffiti in the city is as bad as I can remember it in 56 years; does Councillor Mitchell still believe that the 3GS contract has successfully tackled the problem head on?”

Councillor Mitchell replied, “Yes I do believe that, I think it has sent out a very strong message that we will not tolerate despoiling and littering in the city and in particular fly tipping.”

Councillor Littman asked the following supplementary question, “We obviously disagree on this. Given what I consider to be the abject failure of the outsourcing of enforcement to a private firm, together with the fact that many councillors in-boxes are full of complaints from residents about the heavy handiness of issuing fines when small businesses make minimal errors when recycling their waste and given that the contract runs out in 2019 may I ask what research has gone on or is envisaged to go on regarding bringing the service in-house with zero net costs for the Council and hopefully becoming an income generator for the council?”

Councillor Mitchell replied, “A decision on re-procuring and enforcement contract will take place this autumn and an enforcement policy is being drafted and will be brought to ETS Committee in October. This will provide the basis for re-procuring the contract should Councillors wish to do so and I have already asked officers to work up an in-house option as part of this process.

[3] Environment Transport and Sustainability Committee 27th November 2018: ‘Environmental Enforcement Policy.’$

[4] Cllr Gill Mitchell, Labour Council lead on Environment as quoted in press release:

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion has also written a blog on the u-turn:

Councillors Blog

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