Posted: 06.05.20 at 10:22 by The Editor
An opinion piece by Thurrock Nub News Editor Neil Neil Speight.
I ATTENDED the industrial fire in West Thurrock this morning to report on the incident which drew seven fire crews and caused a warning to residents to close their windows.
I went because I judged it to be a matter of public interest and journalists are permitted to travel under key worker status on matters of public interest. I travelled on my own and parked safely away from the scene. I would like to think I showed common sense and respected others .
Sadly common sense and courtesy was not in abundance by what I witnessed as I returned to my vehicle and sat filing a report to this site.
The fire was close to Thurrock Council's refuse amenities HQ and I had noticed about five civil enforcement officers, all kitted out, hanging about the entrance. To be honest, I didn't give it that much thought and imagined they were there waiting to go out on their shifts. It appears not.
While I was sat in my vehicle saw one of the officers standing by the roadside a few yards away from me partly hidden by another parked vehicle. I could also hear someone close having a conversation on a telephone. I had a quick look and it was a lorry driver talking to his base. His vehicle was safely parked and his window was open.
Again, because I was concentrating on what I was doing, I didn't pay much attention.
The talking stopped after I heard the driver say goodbye to whoever he was talking to. That was the key for action.
The enforcement officer sprinted across in front of me and I turned to see what was happening. The driver, who I had noticed earlier was smoking and holding his cigarette outside the cab, had dropped the tab onto the road. A quite busy road I might add, with lorries, vans and cars passing every few moments.
But that was enough for the officer, who had clearly been watching him and waiting. He announced the driver was being reported for littering and was going to be fined. He asked the driver for ID and took his details.
The driver was clearly bemused. There are no signs on that road and normally no vehicles would have been there because it has double yellow lines. He was only there because of the fire and he had been there a while because he couldn't get to his delivery point as the road to it was closed by police.
He had driven from Nottinghamshire and did not know the area. And there are no visible signs that there are any by-laws in place. This is, after all, the middle of an industrial estate full of rubbish recycling sites and scrap heaps! There is a significant amount of wind-blown litter by the nature of the area.
The enforcement officer had watched him and waited, like a hunter having snared a trap! The driver walked right into it. I wish I had twigged what was going on, and I would have warned the driver had I done so. I do not condone in any way littering but this was an act of littering that could easily have been prevented. The officer saw he was smoking and could have had a word. He could have asked him to get out of his vehicle and pick it up. He could have shown common sense.
Instead the hard-working driver, who had driven more than 100 miles to deliver goods to our community to help keep our economy turning over - who was prevented from taking a break and a fag in a permitted area where he could have disposed of his cigarette butt properly by an emergency - faces a £150 fine.
Can that be right? Is it fair? Is that what we pay our council tax for - for Thurrock to treat people like this? Is Thurrock Council so desperate for £150 it resorts to these tactics? I have asked those questions of council leader Rob Gledhill and the portfolio holder for environment Aaron Watkins. It will be interesting to see their justification of this enforcement officer's actions.
Yesterday (Tuesday, 5 May) I reported on the potential appointment of a 'social distancing enforcement officer by the company appointed by Thurrock Council to run much of its enforcement. I believe it is the same company that employs this officer. Kingdom Security has gained a reputation for being a pariah in the enforcement industry. Several councils have kicked them out because of their methods. Yet Thurrock Council welcomes them and praises them. Cllrs Gledhill and Watkins have frequently waxed lyrically about the council's littering and enforcement policy.
There are times when people need to be fined. Some people have no respect for our community and need to learn lessons, sometimes the hard way. But I'm not sure that applied in this instance. Prevention is supposed to be better than cure. One word from this officer could have prevented this happening, but instead he chose to hide out of sight and pounce.
I don't smoke. I hate fly-tipping, abhor littering and I do not condone anyone chucking even a cigarette butt away. But this was thoughtless I think, not intentional. And the time, the place and the situation was exceptional. Consequently I think the officer's actions were despicable - an embarrassment to the borough I am proud of and a shameful and sad indictment of the way this current administration works.