Clean up Britain

HARSHER fines and tougher action were today called for in a bid to combat Britain's litter shame.Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) is urging local councils to use their powers to hit the anti-social menaces hard in the pocket and is calling on the Government to make harsher penalties possible.

HARSHER fines and tougher action were today called for in a bid to combat Britain's litter shame.

Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) is urging local councils to use their powers to hit the anti-social menaces hard in the pocket and is calling on the Government to make harsher penalties possible.

The proposals are outlined in a paper presented to the Government today following survey that showed 70 per cent of the areas we live in are in a mess.

Wardens can be employed to fine selfish people that throw rubbish on private land such as gardens, and public areas but some councils in Suffolk are reluctant to use the punishments as they are a drain on public funds.

Proposals include councils being allowed to fix the level of fines for littering, new powers to confiscate cars used for drug dealing and on-the-spot penalties for fly-posters and graffiti artists.

A massive overhaul of the laws on dog fouling and fines of £1000 for businesses that put their rubbish out on the wrong night are also suggested.

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Chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, Alan Woods, said: "For too long the thug has ruled the roost and transformed our town centres, countryside, parks and even our neighbourhoods into a tip.

"This is because their bad behaviour has been allowed to go unpunished."

Dirty streets are a major health hazard with dumped food and litter helping to swell Britain's rat population to 60 million.

While rubbish, graffiti, dog fouling and vandalism top the list of problems, many boroughs suffer through fly-tipped junk, chewing gum, poor lighting, grubby alleyways and even abandoned shopping trolleys.

Mr Woods said: "The biggest tragedy about this environmental degradation is that it hits needy neighbourhoods the hardest.

"When you already have to contend with social and economic difficulties, the last thing you want is someone making your area look squalid and unsafe."

Keep Britain Tidy said that while existing legislation has made a small dent in solving these problems, too much environmental crime still goes unpunished.

Mr Woods: "According to one of our most recent surveys, people said they wanted harsher penalties dealt out for offences like littering and dog fouling.

"In fact, they look at countries such as Singapore where louts are fined heavily, forced to clean up and named and shamed in national newspapers and ask 'why can't that happen here?'"

Suffolk Coastal District Council is one of the few councils that have already chosen to exercise their fine-collecting powers. In March they introduced a series of litter patrols in towns like Woodbridge, Leiston, Kesgrave and Felixstowe.

A three-strong team travelled round the area and had the power to impose fixed £50 penalties to anyone caught dropping litter.

A spokesman for the council said: "We spend around £600,000 a year dealing with litter and cleaning up the streets."

Mid Suffolk District council is lagging behind but on-the-spot fines are on the agenda.

Paul Lewis, the council's waste and environmental co-ordinator said: "We have the power to introduce a £50 fixed penalty fine but we have not dished any out yet. We are looking at the powers we have and the feasibility of such a scheme. Its already on our to do list."

Ipswich Borough Council have not wielded their powers due to the financial cost.

Deputy leader David Ellesmere said: "Councils have had the ability to issue these kinds of fines for a while. But, like many other councils in the area, although we've been able to do it we've not actually done it.

"This is because when councils levy these fines the money they collect would go straight back to central Government pots. We'd have to pay for someone to go around and impose the fines but we would not actually get the money back.

"However, changes have been introduced to this funding system recently which will make it easier for us and we are hoping to launch a campaign in the autumn.

"We are looking to employ two officers who will be responsible not just for going out and fining people but going out and launching education campaigns."

A Babergh District Council spokesman said: "Babergh will be studying the proposals with interest."

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