Councils failing to punish litter louts
A GOVERNMENT minister has criticised local authorities in the region for failing to crack down on environmental crimes.Environment minister Ben Bradshaw spoke out after it was revealed just 878 fixed penalty notices were issued in East Anglia for dropping rubbish last year while only two thirds of these were actually paid.
A GOVERNMENT minister has criticised local authorities in the region for failing to crack down on environmental crimes.
Environment minister Ben Bradshaw spoke out after it was revealed just 878 fixed penalty notices were issued in East Anglia for dropping rubbish last year while only two thirds of these were actually paid.
In Suffolk only 38 fixed penalty notices were issued between April 2004 and March 2005 and these were shared out between the boroughs of Ipswich St Edmundsbury, with the latter accounting for 29.
Of the 38 fines issued throughout the county only 15 were actually collected and all were issued for dog fouling and litter.
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In Essex the authorities of Braintree, Chelmsford, Colchester and Tendring performed better, issuing a total of 111 - once again all for littering and dog fouling – but just 63 were collected.
Mr Bradshaw said: “Far too many local authorities are treating fixed penalty notices as some kind of voluntary fining scheme - what kind of message does that send to the litterbugs and vandals? People will only take these fines seriously if local authorities take them seriously.
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“In the short-term, targeting resources at cleaning up might seem like the best idea, but it just isn't efficient. We need to look at changing behaviour.”
Mr Bradshaw said he would now be writing to those local authorities which have poor payment records to urge them to improve their performance.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 gave authorities a range of new powers to deal with environmental crimes, including littering, vandalism, dog fouling, graffiti, fly-tipping and noise - and more powers will be introduced in April.
Councils in the region have defended their record, saying they take matters of environmental crime very seriously.
Jeremy Farthing, St Edmundsbury cabinet member for environment, said: “It is a very clear priority of this administration to ensure our streets are clean which is why we recently increased our street cleaning teams in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill.
“People who do litter and foul public areas are anti-social and will not be tolerated by St Edmundsbury. I am pleased our council is issuing enforcement orders and have instructed our officers to issue even more.”
David Barker, volunteer for Spring Clean Suffolk, a week-long initiative starting this month aimed at keeping the county tidy, said he hoped local authorities would issue more fines in the future to help deter litterbugs.
He said: “From the point of view of Spring Clean Suffolk, I would encourage local authorities to issue more fixed penalty notices because when people are hit in the pocket they are less likely to do something.
“This campaign week is not just about tidying up but also making people think twice before they drop rubbish so anything that deters them from doing so we would encourage.
“There was the example in Essex recently where a young lad dropped his chips on the boundary between Tendring and Colchester and he was facing fines from both authorities which I think is correct.
“I know it can be difficult to collect and police fixed penalty notices because the infrastructure isn't necessarily in place but we do expect to see a severe tightening up of procedures and hopefully progress can be made well after the spring clean.”