VIDEO: Operation Pheasant, which tackles migrant exploitation in Fenland, gets more national recognition

Officers entering the house in Colvile Road, Wisbech. Operation Pheasant.

Officers entering the house in Colvile Road, Wisbech. Operation Pheasant. - Credit: Archant

A council has won its third national award for its role in an operation to tackle migrant exploitation in Fenland.

LGC Awards 2015Left to right: Tim Grier (Bouygues Energies and Services, award sponsor), Rob Bridge

LGC Awards 2015Left to right: Tim Grier (Bouygues Energies and Services, award sponsor), Rob Bridge (FDC corporate director), Paul Medd (FDC chief executive), Cllr John Clark (FDC Leader), Sarah Gove (FDC housing and communities manager), Cllr Will Sutton (FDC Cabinet member), Chief Inspector Mike Hills (Fenland Area Commander, Cambridgeshire Constabulary), Pc Nick Webber (Cambridgeshire Constabulary), Sue Perkins (awards host). Picture: TIM HOWARD. - Credit: Archant

Fenland District Council saw off competition from nine other councils, including Glasgow City Council and Leeds City Council, to walk away with the Partnership of the Year trophy at this year’s Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards.

Since Operation Pheasant, a multi-agency taskforce involving Cambs Police, Fenland District Council, HM Revenue and Customs, the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, Cambs Fire & Rescue and Home Office Immigration Enforcement, was launched in May 2013, 216 cases of gangmaster activity have been discovered.

Eleven cases of human trafficking, including five sham marriages, have been uncovered and 490 property inspections have taken place, leading to 270 notices being issued under housing and planning legislation.

Also, 213 Category 1 hazards and 257 Category 2 hazards have been removed.

Officers have carried out 356 fire safety assessments and closed nine premises.

Now, 205 people are no longer illegally housed, while 53 people have been voluntarily repatriated.

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A total of 1378 information packs have been distributed about rights and responsibilities to tenants and 159 benefit offences uncovered.

The LGC judges said: “Operation Pheasant presents a very current and prominent issue in the globalised world that we live in, and has proven tangible results: from improving housing conditions and rescuing victims of modern day slavery, to reducing total crime by 16 per cent.

“Operation Pheasant has proven the far-reaching and long-term positive impact it will have on the community as a whole, and it is a remarkable representation of what a district council can achieve when it combines a strong vision with a formidable partnership.”

Fenland District Council won two awards in last year’s MJ Awards for its role in the project.

The operation has had very strong support from MP Steve Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, who secured £178,600 of government funding from the Rogue Landlord Fund for the operation.

Councillor John Clark, FDC’s Leader, said: “The judges’ comments say it all. We’re absolutely delighted to have got further recognition for the work we are doing to help tackle these issues.

“This latest award is no more than Sarah Gove, our housing and communities manager, and her fellow officers deserve for the tremendous efforts they continue to put in, along with the police and other partners.”

Chief Inspector Mike Hills, Cambs Police’s Fenland Area Commander, said: “We’re very pleased to have won this award, which acknowledges the hard work that all team members have put in to Operation Pheasant.

“Together we have protected and safeguarded a significant number of vulnerable victims from exploitation and this work will continue to make a difference as we move forward.”

Mr Barclay said: “Trafficking people to exploit their labour is a shocking crime and I am determined to ensure the criminals behind this exploitation are tackled.

“We should be proud locally of the difference being made by the Operation Pheasant team in tackling squalid living conditions which impact both those in the house and those living nearby.

“The team are making a real difference to vulnerable workers and to their neighbours in the wider community.”