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Clean Highways campaign fights back against negative Environmental Protection article

20130107_0183 - CopyKingdom’s Environmental Protection division aims to make our streets and public spaces cleaner, safer and greener, working on behalf of local councils to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for littering, dog fouling, fly tipping, and other anti-social behaviour.

At the end of the day, our aim is to change public behaviour, to stop people dropping litter (and litter includes cigarettes and chewing gum), and to make sure that people do clean up after their dogs, as dog mess is not only unpleasant to see and smell, but can be dangerous, particularly to young children. If people didn’t drop litter, our services wouldn’t be needed, communities would be cleaner and safer, and the taxpayer would be better off – as last year over £1 billion was spent cleaning the UK streets.

Unfortunately, the press often doesn’t see it this way. One such example was a recent article in The Telegraph entitled “Rise of the litter police: council areas where you are 20 times more likely to be fined”.

We were very pleased then to see Peter Silverman from the campaign group Clean Highways write a letter to the Telegraph responding to some of the points that were raised in their article. Mr Silverman’s response can be found on the Clean Highways website, and we have reproduced his letter in full below:

Letter to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph

Dear Sir,

Hayley Dixon and Patrick Scott “The rise of the litter police”, DT 21st November, claim a public backlash is growing over the use of private companies to hand out litter fines on behalf of councils. I am not aware of any backlash in spite of the terrible things we are told are happening in the article.

The companies get up to 100% of every fine! Who is to say that this is not fair compensation for the service they provide. There is nothing sinister here. Of course Councils can never win in the eyes of their critics. If they keep a share of the fines they are accused of using them to raise revenue.

They are looking for a person who drops a cigarette butt or something! That’s called littering and should be deterred.

Officers hide in order to catch people! DEFRA’s guidelines say that the officers should be in uniform and be on patrol. This means that anyone contemplating dropping a serious piece of litter will delay doing so until after the officers have passed by. This is why so many of the fines are handed out for “a cigarette butt or something” i.e. for items which tend to be discarded without any forethought.

I would like to see the DEFRA guidelines changed to allow officers to operate in plain clothes and to be free to focus on hot-spots, hiding – yes hiding – where necessary. The more serious offenders would then be caught and in, hopefully, great numbers. Councils would then raise significant revenues from those causing the problem and use the money to pay for more street cleansing. The proverbial win – win scenario.

During 2016 the councils that used private firms issued an average of 3,100 fines compared 181 for those that issued their own fines! The former are therefore doing a far better job of deterring littering.

Recruits are told that they will get a “competency allowance”, described as a “bonus”, if they issue more than four tickets a day. It is inevitable that officers will be rewarded on the basis of their productivity. This can be done overtly or by increasing the basic pay of the high achievers. An overt process would be most transparent but should be tempered by the oversight of an independent scrutiny and accreditation body with the powers to weed out irresponsible officers.

The criminal ramification are greater with fixed penalty notices because you can be prosecuted with a criminal record! This quotation from human rights lawyer Professor Michael Ramsden is presumably contrasting on-the-spot litter fines with, for example, parking fines. The latter are dealt with under the civil law. I agree that it makes no sense for anyone who fails to pay an on-the -spot fine to be given a criminal record for dropping a packet of crisps. This is why most councils do not to issue litter fines to juveniles – a very major flaw in the system. I have proposed to DEFRA that the law be changed so that councils should be given a civil law alternative to the present criminal regime.

The article cites three cases where the fines were issued without due consideration. No other information is provided to indicate whether this is the tip of an iceberg or the whole of a rather diminutive one. If there were not 3 but 30 such cases and they all occurred in 2016 when 150,000 fines were issued by contractors, that would amount to a failure rate of only 2 in 10,000.

We should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. With some modifications the use of private contractors to issue litter fines could become a major contributory factor to getting our country cleaned up.

Peter Silverman
Clean Highways
23rd November 2017

We are pleased to have the support of campaign groups like Clean Highways that support our work on behalf of local councils to make our communities cleaner, safer and greener, and will continue to tackle litter, dog fouling and other anti-social behavior for the comfort, safety and security of all residents and visitors of to our local communities.

Kingdom’s Environmental Protection Division is led by experts with an ex-police and military background and delivers over 270,000 Environmental Protection hours each year on behalf of local authorities up and down the UK. They issue fixed penalty notices to offenders who are seen breaking the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in streets, parks and open spaces to reduce anti-social behaviour.

To find out more about Kingdom’s Environmental Protection service, please call 0845 051 7702 or visit http://www.kingdom.co.uk/services/environmental-protection/