‘Lucrative’ Litter Fines Criticised

A BBC investigation has revealed some London councils using private firms to target littering — with a massive increase in fines being issued.

Bromley, Hillingdon and Enfield councils used XFor, a private company whose website states that its wardens will issue enough fines to cover their pay. Which sounds to us rather more of a case of setting a target and then ensuring enough fines are issued to hit it.

Civil liberties group, the Manifesto Club, who highlighted Newham’s £376,620 earnings from fines last year, say some councils are using them to make money. The private policing of London’s public spaces and on-the-spot fines have become increasingly commonplace since they were introduced in 2004. Like parking charges and fines (which councils are also accused of using to boost revenue), it’s pretty easy to wheel out the adage that if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime, but when punishment rather than prevention becomes more lucrative, it all looks slightly less reasonable.

Smokers appear to be top of XFor’s hit list with 94% of Bromley’s fines being issued for dropping cigarette butts — the BBC investigation witnessed wardens hiding before handing out tickets — but the Manifesto Club say few councils provide cigarette bins.

The question of who private firms are accountable to is one of the biggest problems, along with the fact that the only way to appeal the fines is before a magistrate — an option few would be willing to risk. Magistrate’s Association chairman John Fassenfelt said:

“Magistrate’s Court is much more transparent and consistent. It delivers justice over and above what the private company can deliver. Private companies don’t report to anybody, the public can’t question it – there’s very limited appeal provisions.”

Photo by The Green Odyssey in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Update: Newham council did not use XFor to issue fines for littering and say they earned £376,620 from all fines issued.

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  • http://actually-just-about-to-make-a-blog.com/ Mr X

    This happened to me about a year and a half ago. I told them to fuck off figuratively not literally and walked away. Do the same, there’s virtually nothing they can do.

  • Matt

    I wish they’d fine people where I live in Redbridge – the litter in our local park and on the High Street is a real problem, especially with the kids from the local High School. Once word gets around about these fines, they WILL have an effect. Looking forward to watching the programme. Put your rubbish in a bin.

    • http://actually-just-about-to-make-a-blog.com/ Mr X

      they are not looking at litter, nor flytipping. This is a cash grab by councils. Much like CCTV is used not to police crime, but to photograph cars on double yellow lines.

    • BethPH

      Thing is, pretty much everyone would like to see less litter, but incentivising private companies to fine is the wrong way to go about it. Their interest will be in making as much revenue as quickly and easily as possible and deter councils from providing more rubbish bins/fag bins.

  • Fountainesmith
  • Matt

    I don’t really care who does it. A few people and /or kids will get fines, and behaviour will change. These aren’t parking fines, the council doesn’t have to spend money when you park on yellow line. There’s not speeding fines. There are a team of people clearing up after another group of people who have no regard for their environment. It’s a health hazard (fried chicken bones etc), unsociable, and an eyesore, and it’s entirely preventable. Fine away, I say. Like with speed cameras, people will have to modify their behaviour. We have got to the point where very few people take responsibility for their rubbish. That can’t continue, and if the cuts mean that litter louts subsidise the rest of us, so be it. I’d dish them out like they were Smarties come chucking out time at the local school. They’d soon stop. Problem solved for everyone.

  • jeremy_inc

    This is a tough one, while I have to agree there is precious few cigarette bins around, butts are unsightly and people need to be taught it’s not OK to just drop them on the ground.

    But also councils shouldn’t just fine “easy targets”, and should go after people who don’t pick up after their dogs, or walk down the street eating maccas leaving a trail of detriment behind.