For the last three months the wards of Beeston & Holbeck and Hunslet & Riverside have had a dedicated Civil Enforcement Officer. I met up with Joanne (not her real name*) to find out about her role.
She has legal powers to tackle illegally parked cars by issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs); and dog fouling and littering by issuing Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs). Whilst these issues are her priorities she also reports other issues, such as fly tipping to members of her wider team in the Council.
Joanne sees her role as helping to have an impact on the area and improving life for local people. For example by reducing problem parking and making it easier for traffic to flow, making access easier for mechanical street sweepers and refuse lorries and making it safer for children going to school.
The post has been funded by the Inner South Area Committee and it’s the ward members who are setting the agenda, responding to feedback from residents, rather than wider Council priorities.
“I’m not working to targets to issue tickets and I’m certainly not on commission” explains Joanne.
With such a big area to cover, she can’t cover every issue, but she makes sure she visits the priority areas and hotspots on a daily basis. These include parking on Tempest Road, Dewsbury Road and Beeston Hill as well outside schools.
“It seems to be getting easier as people realise I’m staying in the area. I’ve noticed on Tempest Road for example, it was really bad with people parking on the zig-zags at the zebra crossing, but it’s not as bad now.
“It’s the same on Beeston Hill near the traffic lights. I still go there daily and issue PCNs to vehicles but it is getting better.”
Most people accept a ticket, but quite a lot get into their car and drive away. Whether it’s embarrassment or trying to avoid the fine, it doesn’t bother Joanne. It just means the ticket gets issued by post, rather than in their hand. If people do get aggressive, Joanne has a body-cam and is in radio contact with her base for back up.
Joanne’s focus is to resolve issues, not to punish people, so she always tries speak to people, explain the issue and change their behaviour.
One recent case involved a motor business on Barkly Road in Beeston. Cars in various states of disrepair and apparently abandoned were left outside the garage. Joanne worked with the garage owner to get the vehicles off the street.
The owner co-operated and worked hard to remove them, or move them into the grounds of the garage.
“It was good to get positive feedback from Councillors that it has made a difference” says Joanne. “I praised the garage owner, but said I’ll still be back to check!”
Joanne also carries out joint patrols with PCSOs in Beeston and in Holbeck every two weeks.
“We cover their priority streets and my priority streets together because the Police have powers I don’t have and vice versa, so between us we can sort most things out.”
Another bugbear in Beeston is matchday parking. Joanne explains that there is a dedicated team of 6-8 officers from Parking Services patrolling every matchday, so she tries to deal with issues a bit further away from the ground on those days.
The post is a one year pilot and will be reviewed at the end of 12 months. If its success carries on the Community Committee will look to continue funding it, helped by the income from fines, which returns to their budget.
Cllr Mohammed Iqbal (Hunslet & Riverside) commented:
“We are very pleased to have this Civil Enforcemrnt Officer between the two wards, I think it will bring a lot of positives in the area in terms of cleaner neighbourhoods and parking issues.
“Refuse vehicles have had a lot of obstructions which have resulted in a backlog of missed bin collections. In turn that’s led to a lot of dumping issues and fly tipping. Hopefully we’ll see a lot of change now and I’m sure the public will be pleased with that.”
If you have any issues you want to report please call the Council’s contact centre on (0113) 222 4444 or via the website: my.leeds.gov.uk
*We have changed the officer’s name because a few disgruntled people have tried to harass her on social media.
Photo: Cllr Gohar Almass