Smokers claims of being targeted by litter cops backed up by new figures which show 2 in 3 fines are for dropped butts
More than two in three fines handed out by the council’s new litter cops in their first six months were for dropped cigarette butts, new figures show.
Of the 882 fines handed out by 3GS officers, 602 were issued for dropped butts, backing up claims by smokers who said they were being singled out as easy targets.
In contrast, the numbers fined for general litter, fly-tipping and dog poo – which residents are most concerned about – were 7, 35 – and one.
The next most common fine was for commercial waste, where businesses use council bins to dispose of their rubbish, for which 151 fines were handed out. Handing out fliers without a licence led to 34 fines, and spitting 14.
Fifteen fines were handed out for fly-posting and graffiti – two of which were given to artists Jessica Sharville and John Parkinson for painting a mural on a wall at a well-known street art hotspot. Jessica said the move could lead to a “chilling effect” on the city’s street art scene.
However, following our stories about smokers claims of being unfairly targeted, the council started working with contractor 3GS to issue more fines for flytipping and commercial waste- and raffle tickets will be handed out to people seen disposing of their waste properly, with a prize of £100 worth of Amazon vouchers.
In the last eight weeks, 27 fines were issued for flytipping, compared to eight in the first eight weeks of operation and 65 were given out for commercial waste offences compared with 36 issued in the preceeding eight weeks. Fifty four fines were issued for cigarette related litter. There is a slight overlap between this time period and the original figures, which were for February to August.
And the council says that money from the fines – which from February to August brought in just over £68,000 of which the council gets £24,400.50 – will go towards buying mobile CCTV to place at flytipping hotspots.
The lack of fines for fly tipping and dog fouling were criticised by Green spokeswoman for the environment Councillor Louisa Greenbaum, who said: “Greens supported the initiative billed as a zero cost way of cracking down on anti-social littering and fly tipping around the city.
“However, we have had to push Labour hard to get a full breakdown of the fines that have been issued so far, and now we can see why they were so reluctant. Of 882 fixed penalty notices, only 1 fine has been paid for dog fouling, and just 21 for fly tipping ie just 2.3%.
“We were asked to support a scheme that would address the issues which we know matter to residents most – fly tipping and dog fouling. Labour Leader Warren Morgan claimed on September 9th that he believed in the principle that ‘the polluter pays’ but in fact the private contractors are not dealing with the most stubborn polluters and are choosing to go after the ‘easy hits’ such as workers smoking outside offices.
“Of course we welcome any initiatives to reduce street litter, but easily the largest concern residents have is about fly tipping, so this needs urgent action.
“The administration will say that the income the scheme generates for the Council will help with education on littering and CCTV enforcement of fly tipping, but as our share of the fines issued is £24k it will have a limited impact.
“The scheme – and our contract with 3GS – need a complete rethink if we genuinely want to tackle the littering problems that we know are making our city untidy and the things residents are most anxious about.”
Chair of the Environment Transport and Sustainability Committee Cllr Gill Mitchell defended the high rate of fines given to smokers. She said: “When we came into administration we said that we would focus on getting the basics right, which includes keeping our streets clean and tidy, and I think it is disappointing that the Green Party seems out of touch with residents about the importance of clean streets.
“Local residents have for years been complaining about smokers’ litter outside The Royal Sussex County Hospital and 3GS have responded to meet people’s demands on that.
“Cigarette ends, like chewing gum, may be small but there’s such a huge amount of it, particularly in some locations, it can still make streets look a mess.
“The Keep Britain Tidy group has been campaigning on smoking-related litter, and councils all over the country have for years been issuing fines for dropping cigarette ends.
“The enforcement contract also focuses on fly-tipping – another major concern for residents that the Green Party did not tackle when they led the council.
“As a direct result of the enforcement contract, CCTV is likely to be deployed to tackle fly-tipping for the first time soon, and let’s hope the Green Party support us on that.”