Manager denies telling staff to target minorities with fines

Litter in London

Litter in London - Credit: PA

A litter enforcement firm manager has denied telling staff to target people from ethnic minorities with fines as they were less likely to challenge them or understand UK law.

John Roberts, Kingdom Services Group's head of local authority support, said it does not “stack up” that staff were told to hand out fixed penalty notices (FPNs) to people from ethnic minorities, as they needed to understand what was happening so payments of fines would go through.

The allegations made by former team manager Gary Forrester “did not fit the business model” as “people need to know why they are being stopped”, Mr Roberts told the East London Employment Tribunal.

Mr Forrester, 39, of Bromley, south London, who worked for Kingdom from February to November 2020, claims he was wrongly dismissed for blowing the whistle. He is also claiming racial discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Mr Forrester, who was usually stationed in the borough of Barnet, previously told the hearing that the “dog eat dog” nature of the business meant staff targeted ethnic minorities with FPNs as they were less inclined to query them or to understand UK law.

On one occasion Waltham Forest was “flooded” with officers as Kingdom had not enforced enough penalties there, the tribunal heard.

Mr Forrester alleged the company was still charging the council for its services, despite not being in Barnet. He said Kingdom would tell his team to work in other boroughs which had contracts with the firm, but would still charge the local authorities they were meant to be in as if workers were carrying out tasks as normal – “double or triple-billing” the councils.

Most Read

He alleged a Barnet Council waste disposal team – Street Scene – did “not always pick up waste according to the timetable”, leading to businesses and residents incurring FPNs.

Street Scene staff put rubbish they had collected back on to the road, leading to residents being issued FPNs by Kingdom officers, he said.

Mr Roberts said double-billing the councils could not happen as the office system would not allow it.

The tribunal heard that CCTV images had been produced by a shop owner who was concerned that waste was being placed outside his business which the council was being paid to remove.

Mr Roberts said the footage showed an employee moving items but “it does not show anything more than that”. He added that it “could have been placed there to ensure that it is not blocking the road”.

Mr Forrester previously told the tribunal his team received “dozens and dozens of complaints from residents” and he raised his concerns with Barnet Council’s contract manager and his own manager, but was told to “leave it with them”.

He said his claims were wrongfully dismissed and Kingdom used allegations of racist and transphobic posts in a staff WhatsApp group as an “excuse” to sack him for his concerns, which were reasonable, in the public interest and protected disclosures.

Mr Forrester claims he raised his concerns at least four times but nothing was done. He denies the allegations around the WhatsApp posts which were upheld by an internal Kingdom investigation.

William Russell, who chaired the internal hearing against him in November 2020, said race had “nothing to do with the disciplinary process”, despite Mr Forrester suggesting it was a “sham to try and get rid of him”.

In his witness statement, Mr Russell said: “I categorically deny that was the case. The conclusions and decisions I reached were all mine and no one else had any impact or tried to influence or press me during the process.”

He felt there was “sufficient evidence” that Mr Forrester had “not only allowed the posting of offensive, racist and transphobic messages and images on the WhatsApp group, he had at times posted racist and offensive comments and images himself and that he had failed to act in an appropriate manner in his position”.

Mr Forrester seeks reinstatement if the Kingdom chief executive issues him an apology and assurances the alleged practices will stop, or compensation and reimbursement of costs as an alternative option.

Employment judge Benjimin Burgher reserved the tribunal’s ruling.