Litter enforcement officers were told to target ethnic minorities because they were less likely to understand UK law and would not challenge penalties, tribunal hears

  • Gary Forrester, 39, alleges Kingdom Services Group targeted ethnic minorities
  • He said his superiors told litter enforcement staff to issue bogus fines
  • He also claims he was unfairly dismissed for speaking out about the practices
  • Kingdom denied the claims and said it had taken legitimate disciplinary action
  • An investigation in 2019 found Kingdom had generated £1.4m in fines over just eight months in one council area alone 

A litter enforcement worker who is suing his former employer has claimed he was sacked for whistleblowing after allegedly being told to target ethnic minorities with fines.

Gary Forrester, 39, yesterday told an employment tribunal that staff at Kingdom Services Group were told to go after minorities because they were unlikely to challenge penalties and were less inclined to understand UK law.

He also alleged Kingdom staff were under ‘daily threat’ of being fired if they did not issue enough fixed penalty notices (FPNs). 

The former team manager, who was stationed in the London borough of Barnet, said in a witness statement that his boss issued the order after becoming ‘frustrated and angry’ when staff could not issue more littering and fly-tipping penalties for legitimate reasons. 

He also alleged Kingdom would ‘double or triple-bill councils’ by telling his team to work in other boroughs which had contracts with the firm while charging the first local authority as if work were being carried out as normal. 

Kingdom meanwhile has denied ever targeting ethnic minorities and disputed the claim Mr Forrester was a whistleblower, saying that any ‘protected disclosures’ he made were simply attempts to prevent a disciplinary process brought against him. 

Gary Forrester, 39, yesterday told an employment tribunal that staff at Kingdom Services Group were told to go after minorities because they were unlikely to challenge penalties and were less inclined to understand UK law (pictured: environmental enforcement officer from Kingdom Services Group in Kent)

Mr Forrester also alleged Kingdom staff were under ‘daily threat’ of being fired if they did not issue enough fixed penalty notices (stock picture)

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’.

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. 

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. 

In 2019, a Guardian investigation into Kingdom revealed that the company had generated £1.4m in fines over just eight months in one council area alone.

Whistleblowers told the paper two years ago that Kingdom employees had targeted elderly people for littering because they knew they would be more likely to pay the fines.

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’ (stock pic)

In 2019, a Guardian investigation into Kingdom revealed that the company had generated £1.4m in fines over just eight months in one council area alone (stock pic)

In response to the allegations made by Mr Forrester, a Barnet Council spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of the 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.’

In his statement, Mr Forrester 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.

His witness statement also alleged that Street Scene staff would put rubbish they had collected back onto the road, leading to residents being issued FPNs by Kingdom officers, and that Street Scene staff would try to try to force businesses with excess waste to pay fines, or steal products from their stores. 

In 2019, former Kingdom litter enforcement officer Shaun Finch, who worked on the streets of Grimsby for six months, alleged that the firm encourages employees to use ‘underhanded tactics’ to generate more revenue, including following people, hiding in cars so as not to be seen, and removing their body-cameras before claiming an offence had taken place.

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