Promoting Clean and Safe Public Space in Lambeth

Sponsor: London Borough of Lambeth Lambeth Spaces Team Photo
Sponsor Liaison: Ashley Brandon, Paul Fawcett
Student Team: Kyle Arnold, Evan Kelly, Andrew Nemeth, John Ringuette
Abstract: The London Borough of Lambeth struggles to maintain clean and safe public spaces due to their inefficient licensing and enforcement systems. The purpose of this project was to review these systems and recommend improvements to increase public compliance and administrative efficiency. We interviewed local businesses, other borough councils, and Lambeth Council employees to identify problems and potential solutions. We created a wide variety of solutions ranging from a license fee calculator to recommending the placement of ashtrays outside of Underground stations. The Council’s outdated software was the most problematic issue we discovered. We recommended 16 software features that satisfied our project’s purpose and identified preexisting software that implements most of these features.



Executive Summary

Ensuring clean and safe public spaces is one of the London borough of Lambeth’s highest priorities, but acts such as littering and the placement of unauthorized street clutter, such as tables and chairs (TAC), interfere with this objective. Littering alone costs Lambeth Council approximately £7.3 million a year to clean up, and unregulated street clutter makes it difficult for the public, especially people with disabilities and people with strollers for their children, to safely access public spaces (Ogundu, 2015). Lambeth Council attempts to mitigate litter and street clutter by issuing licenses to regulate excessive street clutter as well as fines to enforce legislation and.license regulations. The Council has tasked the team with ensuring that their licensing and enforcement systems are effective in increasing public compliance and creating clean and safe public spaces.

The overarching goal of this project was to increase public compliance with regards to littering and street clutter and to utilize borough resources more efficiently by recommending improvements to the Council’s current licensing and enforcement systems. In order to do so, the group identified tools and techniques to make the ticket issuing and license application processes more accommodating, to streamline ticketing and licensing follow up procedures, and to utilize available enforcement tools to their fullest extent. The team completed five objectives in order to achieve this goal:

  1. Identify and characterize current licensing and enforcement tools and techniques employed by Lambeth.
  2. Determine the perspectives of Lambeth community stakeholders regarding the ticket issuing and license application processes.
  3. Determine the perspectives of Lambeth Council employees regarding the complete ticketing and licensing procedures.
  4. Investigate efficient licensing and enforcement tools and techniques used by other London boroughs.
  5. Recommend both small-scale and large-scale system improvements to increase public compliance and utilize borough resources.

Lambeth Council issues licenses for skips and TAC in order to regulate street clutter. Skips and TAC can become street clutter if unregulated because they make public spaces unsafe and limit public access. The Council is also concerned with the enforcement of Section 87 legislation, which details environmental offenses such as littering and dog fouling. Lambeth Council employs their own community safety officers (CSOs) as well as enforcement officials from a third party contractor known as NSL. These officials enforce legislation, such as Section 87, and license regulations for skips and TAC by issuing on site tickets known as fixed penalty notices (FPNs). In order to create and record all license and enforcement data, Lambeth Council uses two software databases that do not interact with each other.       

In order to achieve both our project goal and objectives, the team broke the problem of licensing and enforcement up into four distinct topic areas skips, tables and chairs, and software systems. When investigating these areas, the team applied its objectives by conducting interviews with employees of Lambeth Council, employees of other borough councils such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney, and local businesses that applied for TAC licenses. The team also conducted site visits and consultations with CSOs, and surveyed skip companies that operate throughout the borough. The team followed these methods for each of our four topic areas to identify problems that existed within the borough and to generate recommendations to improve the quality of public space within the borough.

The main problem regarding the skip license application process was the ability for applicants to apply through the website. Skip companies use the website to bypass Council policies and skip application fees from applications do not go to the council. Overall the team estimates that the council is losing 32,000 pounds of revenue from application made through The team recommends that the Council redirects users away from the application site directly to the Lambeth Council skip application, as it would allow the Council to better allocate resources as well as make the application process more accessible for the customers.

There are also a number of improvements that can be made to the Lambeth Council skip application. The application is very difficult to find and does not highlight critical information such as license regulations and TfL controlled roads. Furthermore, the application requires companies to write their payment information down which is a breach of personal security. The team recommended that Lambeth Council uses a new payment method where they do not prompt customers for payment information until the Council decides to approve their license and that the Council highlights critical information on the application itself.

The main problem with the TAC license application is the application fee calculation.  The license fee is difficult to calculate and therefore, roughly 50% of applicants miscalculate this cost, frustrating businesses and wasting the time of the council. The difficulty of the calculation stems from the multitude of different variables which include, number of chairs, hours placed outside, and street address. The team has created an excel sheet that automates the processes of calculating the TAC license fee, which a council employee could use to verify application payments instead of calculating it themselves. Additionally, the team recommended reducing the number of factors involved in the license fee calculation.

The Council issues 40% of all FPNs issued at three Underground stations: Waterloo, Vauxhall, and Brixton. This distribution is because NSL focuses enforcement on the areas. People frequently smoke outside of Underground stations before entering, and litter their cigarettes outside of the station. The vast majority of these FPNs outside of Underground stations were Section 87 FPNs for littered cigarette butts. Though NSL’s distribution of enforcement officials may generate a high number of FPNs, it may not be most effectively improving the quality of public space. Enforcing Section 87 in key public spaces, such as parks and plazas, may have a more significant impact on public opinion.

Furthermore, the Council should work with TfL to ensure that there are clearly visible ashtrays outside of those three underground stations. Providing the public with an easy and legal way to dispose of cigarettes may help to significantly reduce Section 87 offenses in those areas, allowing enforcement officials to spend time in other public spaces.

After analyzing Lambeth Council’s current licensing and enforcement systems, the team identified 16 specific software features that would significantly improve administration processes and the customer experiences. The team created a recommended software system based upon those 16 features and five major aspects: data visualization, remote access, online applications, online FPN payment, and data access control.

License and enforcement data should be easy to visualize so that employees can make more informed decisions. Currently CSOs must spend significant time leaving and returning to the office to inspect licenses and issue FPNs, so employees should be able to access council data remotely. Licensing administration time could be significantly reduced by implementing smart online applications. The Council uses an online FPN payment system, but when an offender pays for their FPN an employee must manually update the back office system. Manual entry costs council employees time and can cause significant administrative errors, such as demanding payment from an offender who has already paid their FPN. Finally, the software system must control employee’s access to back office data in order to protect council data.

Software systems such as the one the team proposed are available and being implemented by other boroughs. A software company called Farthest Gate offers the borough of Hackney the Liberator software suite, which significantly reduced the administration of the borough’s licensing and enforcement processes. The team recommends that the council consider the implementation of a software system like the one described above.