On February 11, at the Town Hall cabinet meeting, Mike Fisher, the council leader, and his “top team” decided to appoint a company to provide a private police force for on-the-spot £75 fines for people who drop litter and fag ends on Croydon’s streets – and they selected a security company, Xfor, that had already gone into administration weeks before, owing a six-figure sum to the tax man.
The Croydon cabinet decision reflects poorly, again, on the council’s procurement policies, which has been under the charge of Nathan Elvery, the erstwhile finance director and now interim chief executive.
The February 11 cabinet meeting was attended by Fisher, his deputies “Cuddly” Dudley Mead and Tim “Yes, but No, but Yes” Pollard, and councillors Sara Bashford, Simon Hoar, Margaret Mead, Steve O’Connell, Jason Perry and Phil Thomas. All of these officials receive in the region of £40,000 a year in “allowances” for their work as cabinet members; yet not one of them proved capable of going to the trouble of checking out Xfor’s ability to fulfill any contracts.
Fisher and his well-rewarded mates all agreed the policy of fixed penalty notices, and none of them opposed the decision to run a six-month trial using Xfor.
Xfor was founded by ex-military personnel to provide “private security” to local authorities and businesses, but it had developed a controversial reputation for its employees’ often over-zealous approach to “enforcement”, an attitude probably driven by the company getting a commission of 45 quid per “collar”.
In the first six months of running operations for one local authority in south Wales last year, Xfor handed out 1,500 fixed-penalty notices – generating a tidy £112,000 in fines, split between that council and the firm. In total, 63,883 fixed penalty notices for littering, dog fouling and fly-tipping were issued by Xfor and other such companies in England and Wales in 2012.
But despite receiving £1.6 million in commissions, Xfor ran out of money and called in the administrators. Administrators SFP were appointed in January after Xfor’s debts to HM Revenue and Customs climbed to £160,000.
The news must raise serious questions over Croydon Council’s procurement process and whether proper due diligence was performed. Again.
Kingdom Security is understood to be acquiring the Xfor business, and it may be that Kingdom conducts the six-month trial period in Croydon.
Perhaps they could issue Croydon Council’s cabinet or senior staff with fixed penalty notices for yet another poorly handled public contract.
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- Croydon bedroom tax protest: Amputee told she cannot keep her flat (mirror.co.uk)
- Whoops… Council setting the agenda for blunders (insidecroydon.com)
- Number of litter fines rises 90-fold in 15 years (telegraph.co.uk)
- Xfor: Litter squads make millions: Fines soar as councils enlist ex-soldiers to patrol streets (dailymail.co.uk)