Staff told to target ethnic minorities with littering fines, tribunal hears

Litter in London

Litter in London - Credit: PA

A former litter enforcement team manager in Barnet claims he was sacked for blowing the whistle after allegedly being told to target ethnic minorities with fines.

Gary Forrester, 39, told an employment tribunal staff with the company Kingdom Services Group were under “daily threat” of being fired if they did not issue enough fixed penalty notices (FPNs).

He said they were told to go after minorities because they were unlikely to challenge penalties and were less likely to understand UK law.

In a witness statement provided to the tribunal, the former team manager, who was stationed in the borough of Barnet, said his boss issued the order after becoming “frustrated and angry” when staff could not issue more littering and fly-tipping penalties for legitimate reasons, East London Employment Tribunal heard on Wednesday (January 5).

In a a document issued in response, Kingdom denies the claims.

Mr Forrester also alleged 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 – in his words “double, or triple-billing” the councils.

In the statement, Mr Forrester also alleged a Barnet Council waste disposal team – Street Scene – would “not always pick up waste according to the timetable”, leading to businesses and residents incurring FPNs from Kingdom.

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The witness statement alleged that Street Scene staff would put rubbish they had collected back onto the road, leading to residents being issued FPNs by Kingdom officers.

He also alleged Street Scene staff were asking for cash from businesses which had excess rubbish and, if they did not pay, would take items including alcohol and walk out without paying.

Mr Forrester, who worked for Kingdom from February 2020 until November 2020, 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”.

In his statement, he accused Kingdom of “covering up illegal wrongdoing” by its own staff or clients “in order to keep contracts and revenue”.

Mr Forrester claims he was wrongfully dismissed because Kingdom used allegations of racist and transphobic posts in a staff WhatsApp group as an “excuse” to sack him for what he claims were protected disclosures.

Mr Forrester denies the allegations, which were upheld by an internal Kingdom investigation, the tribunal heard.

He seeks re-instatement 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.

He also claims he was a victim of direct race discrimination, the tribunal heard.

In a response document presented to the tribunal, Kingdom’s lawyers disputed the claim Mr Forrester was a whistleblower and denied ever targeting ethnic minorities.

The firm said: “Any disclosures which were made were made cynically in order to attempt to prevent a legitimate disciplinary process and were therefore not in good faith.”

Kingdom denied Mr Forrester was unfairly dismissed or that there was any link between the alleged protected disclosures and his dismissal.

The document added: “[Kingdom] has taken and continues to take all reasonable steps to investigate the allegations made by the [Mr Forrester] and has liaised with all relevant authorities in this regard.

“[Kingdom] notes that the client has found no truth in [Mr Forrester]’s alleged disclosures and other bodies named by the claimant have similarly taken no further action.

“[Kingdom]’s internal investigation found [Mr Forrester]’s alleged disclosures to be without merit.”

It added the firm had a whistleblowing procedure and investigates “robustly” and “adheres fully” to protecting people who make protected disclosures.

A Barnet Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of one of allegations and this has already been investigated by our Corporate Anti-Fraud Team.

“However, there is some new information we have been made aware of that we will now investigate and as such cannot comment further at this time.”

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