Litter louts 'escaping scot-free'

LITTER louts in large parts of Suffolk are escaping scot-free with only a handful of on-the-spot fines being issued, the EADT can reveal.

Craig Robinson

LITTER louts in large parts of Suffolk are escaping scot-free with only a handful of on-the-spot fines being issued, the EADT can reveal.

Of the 223 fines in the last year, virtually all were in two council areas, leaving those dropping litter in the rest of the county to escape punishment.

In some local authority areas, only one fine has been handed out in the last 12 months, while in others the figure is as low as six.

It has sparked concerns from campaigners who feel more needs to be done if the county is to rid itself of its litter problems.

Of the 223 litter fines in 2007-8, 173 of these were issued by just two authorities - Ipswich Borough Council and Waveney District Council.

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The power to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices to those who drop litter was given to local authorities in April 2006.

Since that time Forest Heath has handed out just seven while the number issued in Suffolk Coastal dropped from 40 in 2006-7 to 20 in 2007-8.

Meanwhile Babergh has not handed out any fines at all because it only started using the powers at the start of this year.

While environment chiefs say the low number of fines is evidence that people are finally getting the anti-littering message campaigners fighting to clean up the streets disagree.

A spokeswoman for Encams, which runs the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, said: “Our results show that littering isn't getting better - so it's not a case of it isn't happening.

“We would like to see more fining because hitting people in the pocket is a good deterrent. However the trouble is people don't think they will get caught so they are prepared to run the risk.

Scott Dolling, of the Suffolk Tourism Partnership, said a clean and tidy image was very important to people visiting the county.

“It's often the first thing you see and the lasting impression when you leave,” he said. “It's really crucial that we keep our resorts spotless. In Suffolk we have a lot of people travelling through and if there's a lot of roadside rubbish it can give people the wrong impression as to what we are all about.”

BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Mark Murphy is currently running a campaign, Don't be a Tosser, urging people to take their rubbish home.

He said: “We have been bowled over by the public support and a lot of individuals are organising litter picks which shows the support is out there and that people want to do their bit.”

Last night, district and borough councils across the county said issuing a fine was often a last resort.

A spokeswoman for Forest Heath said the authority had always adopted a policy of education as a main strand of its enforcement.

“We do however recognise that on occasions prosecution may be the only option and as part of the recent restructure of our waste and street scene service we have created two enforcement posts with their remit extending to litter, fly tipping, abandoned vehicles and associated issues,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Babergh said they only had the power to start issuing fixed penalty notices at the start of this year because they had to ensure all the legal issues were in place and correct.

“Babergh uses a variety of measures, including public awareness campaigns, litter picks - as well as covert cameras at fly-tipping hotspots, in order to get its message across,” she said.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal said they would first ask people to pick up their litter - giving them a chance to put right their offence.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said the fact it issued less fines last year was evidence that people were getting the anti-littering message and that a focus on tidying up open spaces was working.

The number of fines for littering issued by local authorities in Suffolk since April 2006

Local authority 06/07 07/08

Babergh* N/A 0

Forest Heath 6 1

Ipswich N/A 115

Mid-Suffolk N/A 6

St Edmundsbury 42 23

Suffolk Coastal 40 20

Waveney 6 58

*Babergh only introduced the power to issue litter fines at the beginning of this year

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