A new squad of litter cops is about to hit the streets of Brighton and Hove – and this time, they’ll be targeting so-called street treasure.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s former contractor, 3GS, was dumped last year after scores of complaints over heavy-handed fines, including targeting teenagers dropping cigarette butts and sole traders putting cardboard in communal recycling bins.
The council has now taken the service in-house and given them a new uniform ready to start patrolling on Monday.
It says for the first fortnight, officers won’t be handing out any fines and concentrating instead on “education” – but after that, they will be handing out penalty notices, including fines of £300 for leaving unwanted items on the street for others to take.
Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “We’ve brought the officers in-house to ensure there is clearer management of the team and greater accountability.
“As this is a new beginning for the council and the service, we’re taking the opportunity to educate people on their responsibility for keeping our beautiful city clean and tidy.
“We also want to ensure we’re being fair with everyone so will be approaching people in the street, including residents, tourists and students, with advice on how to avoid being fined.
“We will also be dropping in on colleges, universities and language schools to ask them to remind their students on a regular basis how to be fine free.”
Cllr Mitchell added: “There is still a large number of people who think throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or down a drain isn’t littering. But the first litters our streets and the second can add to clogging up our drainage system. But anyone caught after our two week education programme will face a £75 fine.
“There are also lots of people who think leaving items they don’t want any more on the street, like furniture, mirrors or mattresses, is fine. But this is fly-tipping and a £300 fine will be issued.”
The team has already visited more than 1000 city businesses, big and small, to advise and remind them of their legal responsibilities on getting rid of their waste.
The 3GS jet black uniform – which some people say they found intimidating – has been replaced with a light blue jacket and black trousers. The officers will still wear camcorders for the public’s and their own protection, and can use any footage if fines are disputed.
A council spokesperson added: “Leaving an item on the street in the hope someone will take it away is fly-tipping, against the law and therefore illegal.
“The law also means the city council is legally responsible for fining people who do this type of fly-tipping, which is a horrible blight on our city. This law is also not something dreamt up by the council.”
The spokesperson added: “There are many ways unwanted items can be disposed of, including online websites like Freegle, Gumtree, Facebook and dozens of community websites. There is absolutely no excuse for fly-tipping.”