News Walthamstow

Walthamstow man fined hundreds for putting rubbish out for collection

More than 1,300 fines were handed out between April and December last year
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Ben Rees has been fined hundreds and threatened with court action after issues with his bin collection (credit: LDRS)
Ben Rees has been fined hundreds and threatened with court action after issues with his bin collection (credit: LDRS)

A Walthamstow man says he feels “blackmailed” and has considered moving out of the borough after being fined for putting his rubbish out for collection.

Ben Rees was fined £400 in July this year after 3GS, a enforcement company hired by Waltham Forest Council, found his bin bag in a pile on St James Street.

He reluctantly paid the fine after 3GS rejected his argument that he put his bin bags out at the right time for collection and threatened to take him to court.

But when he faced a second £400 fine in October, for what he believed was a similar collection issue, he and his wife said they began thinking about moving.

When contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service about Ben’s case, the council cancelled the second fine, saying there had been a “missed collection” after all.

Ben said part of the problem is that his building is in an alleyway with no room for wheelie bins, meaning rubbish has to be left out at specific times.

He said: “It’s very stressful, there is no way we can keep track of bags on the street. It’s given us a lot of anxiety thinking about what to do about it. It feels predatory, like they’re actively trying to catch you out.

“The last fine looked like somebody picked it up and moved it and all the others were collected. The next thing you know someone’s rooted through it, found my name and is trying to fine me £400 for it.

“I find it unreasonable that the council expects me to have a job and a life and to be looking out for trash bags that are not even in front of my house and I have no control over.

“On top of that, they charge the maximum amount of £400 and if you don’t agree they threaten to persecute you in court. There were no questions about affordability or how you can plan to pay it.”

Ben said getting a criminal record would be a “death sentence” for his career as a network engineer, which requires a high-security clearance.

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3GS were awarded the £2.9million contract for enforcement services in Waltham Forest in April 2021, not long after complaints were raised in the press of the previous contract holder, Kingdom LA, acting “like Wild West sheriffs”.

A cabinet report on the decision shows 3GS won the contract because they offered the council a slightly better cut of the fines they were paid. Although the exact amount the council keeps is not specified, the report says it earns at least 30% of each fine issued.

A Waltham Forest spokesperson says 3GS issued 1,322 FPNs between April and December 2021 but claim the amount paid to the council cannot be disclosed because it is “commercially sensitive”.

When contacted for comment, Waltham Forest’s deputy leader Clyde Loakes, said the council “takes its obligation to maintain the local environment seriously”.

He added: “Street cleansing and littering is cleared using council taxpayer money and we will issue fines if there is reason to believe someone is responsible for creating a mess. 

“We operate a fair and robust appeal process in place for residents who believe they have been fined in error.

“Since starting in Waltham Forest in April 2021, 3GS UK has contributed significantly in helping to keep the borough clean and tidy by carrying out enforcement against a variety of anti-social behaviours including spitting and dog fouling as well as fly-tipping.”

Last summer, the council backed down and apologised after ordering a Walthamstow mum to remove a small pile of sticks from her own front garden.

A recent employment tribunal hearing, reported by the Evening Standard, heard a former Kingdom employee claim the company targeted ethnic minorities and “flooded” Waltham Forest with officers when it hadn’t issued enough fines.

Kingdom denies the allegations and the tribunal continues next month.

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