What's your role in a nutshell?
My role as a Civil Enforcement Officer is quite possibly one of the least understood and certainly one of the least appreciated council roles there is.
It’s my job to enforce the rules around parking, for example issuing penalty tickets if someone hasn’t paid for their parking, or has parked in a disabled parking bay without having what’s called a blue badge. People think we’re on commission or have a quota for the number of tickets we must issue – that’s just not true. People also don’t understand that part of our role is to keep the traffic flowing so that ambulances, fire engines, waste lorries and delivery vehicles can get down the streets freely.
I also issue fixed penalty notices as part of Public Space Protection Orders for issues such as dog mess. For example, I can stop and ask a dog owner if they have the means to clean up after their dog - and issue a Fixed Penalty Charge if not. This is especially important in our parks and open spaces where children are playing – no one wants dog mess around. I can also issue penalties to people found dropping litter. There’s more public support on this aspect of our role cracking down on littering.
Was this a planned career or one you fell into?
Fell into. I’m a florist by background and had my own shop for seven years which I loved, yet when shops starting closing around mine my own business was no longer viable and had to close. I’m also worked as a carer and a butcher. My dad works for the council on the waste and recycling lorries and convinced me to ‘give the council a go’.
I got a job cleaning the public toilets for the council contractors, then soon spotted an opportunity to work in the civil enforcement team - they took me on for a three month trial. I’ve been here six months now and I’m really enjoying the role.
Are you a doer, manager or leader?
Most definitely a doer, I’m literally patrolling the streets everyday making sure the car park pay machines are working and checking our parks for litter and dog mess. I’m also the eyes and ears of the council on the ground for any issues – things like such fly-tipping, overflowing litter bins or stray dogs that I pass on to another council teams, or anti social behaviour such as bullying that I can pass on to the Police.
What do you love best & love least about your job?
I love being in the fresh air all day, it’s a very active job – I can clock up to 15 miles a day in my ‘patch’. I like being my own boss managing my area. Wyre Forest District is a big area and we get a substantial area each day to patrol – there’s a team of eight of us covering the district.
One downside can be the weather – we are out in all sorts - although we do get decent protective clothing that helps! But the worst part of the job is the almost daily abuse and name calling I get. When I started in the role I would burst into tears if someone was being really nasty or intimidating – I didn’t let the customer see me like that of course - but over time I’ve learnt to harden up.
I’ve also found it helps to explain to the person why they are getting a ticket, for example if they’ve parked in a disabled bay when they shouldn’t. It could be their mum or dad that then can’t park there. But I do appreciate people will be angry when they see me, no one wants to get a parking ticket and most people just are angry with themselves for not getting back before it expired.
Do you need: Qualifications? University or apprenticeship or special skills?
There no formal qualifications needed, common sense is key and it takes a special person to deal with confrontation and angry members of the public. I’ve become far more thick skinned and have developed my people skills over time like clearly explaining the rules and listening to their point of view.
Routine or variety?
Each day I get a different part of the district to patrol so that keeps it interesting. There’s plenty of daily tasks to be done like checking the ticket machines are working properly and every customer contact is different too. The rules I enforce don’t change so that’s the routine aspect of the job.
Pay check or calling?
The salary is reasonable and reflects the work we undertake. I really enjoy being outside and there are other benefits too - a decent pension and feeling supported at work. I’m in great team that is well managed.
Is there development support available or is it DIY?
I’ve learnt the job from shadowing others in the team; it’s all been on the job learning. I’ve had to learn the technical aspects of the job like all the legislation, but as important has been learning the personal skills like the confidence to approach a person caught letting their dog foul. That takes some skill, tact and directness.
Staying put or moving on?
Staying put - I’ve only been in the job for six months and I’m very happy. I can see other roles that this job could help me progress to. I’m really interested in the environmental crime side of flytipping and all the detective type work that needs to be done to find the evidence of who the culprit is. That’s something I can aim for longer term.
Can you share a life lesson or specific career advice?
Give it a go! Never be afraid to try something new. I’ve done lots of different jobs and at 41 I didn’t think I could learn all I have to do this new role, yet I’ve really surprised myself.
The best thing about working for the Council is….the chance to play my role in helping the local community by keeping the streets moving – as well as keeping an eye on the whole area and helping people if they need it.
Nicola, is an #EverydayHero, working to change and make better the lives of others and you can be an #EverydayHero too. Click here to find roles currently available within Community Safety.
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