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EDITIONS
Friday, 1 November, 2002, 11:56 GMT
Litter spot fines must be 'workable'
Vandalism
Vandalism is top of people's agenda, says Tony Blair
Downing Street has stressed plans to issue spot fines to litter louts would have to be proved "workable" before being introduced.

The government has said it is planning a major crackdown on anti-social behaviour such as fly posting, dropping chewing gum and graffiti.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said such problems were "probably the biggest immediate issue for people in the country".


We need a fair amount of persuading that this is workable

Tony Blair's spokesman
Under policy proposals outlined at an Urban Summit in Birmingham, discarding chewing gum could be classified as littering for the first time, attracting fines of up to 50.

Fast food companies which hand out "flyers" advertising their products could also be fined.

Mr Blair said such anti-social behaviour would be the "biggest issue" in November's Queen's Speech which outlines the government's programme for the year ahead.

But the idea of giving refuse collectors and other minor officials the power to issue spot fines for littering - contained in proposals released on Thursday - was played down by Downing Street.

"We need a fair amount of persuading that this is workable," Tony Blair's official spokesman said.

Local action

Speaking on a visit to an East London Royal British Legion on Thursday, Mr Blair said: "There are lots of big crimes we need to tackle and lots of things to do with public services.

"But when people go out of their door or go down to their local British Legion club or whatever, the problems they face are these problems to do with fly-tipping, abandoned cars, graffiti, petty vandalism.

Tony Blair playing pool at the Royal British Legion
Tony Blair visited a Royal British Legion club in London
"We are looking at all the things we need to do in terms of legislation, in terms of police powers and in how we take the right course of action on a local level in order to deal with these things."

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael unveiled plans to make it easier to prosecute litter louts as part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

Confused

Mr Michael said he wanted to modernise laws governing streets and public places, which were often complex, confusing and out of date.

The main law which deals with beggars is the 1824 Vagrancy Act.

A recent survey by the environment department found many public services, as well as businesses and citizens, were unaware or confused about their responsibilities.

It also found only a thousand people were fined for dropping litter each year.

Beggars

Magistrates could also crack down on beggars by issuing repeat offenders with community service orders.

In a consultation paper issued on Thursday, the government said: "The presence of beggars, rough sleepers, buskers and other persons who are threatening or who engage in anti-social behaviour can affect the use and condition of public space.

"The existing legislation is considered by many local authorities to be unworkable."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kevin Bocquet reports from Liverpool
"Regeneration is not just about tidying up the environment"
See also:

25 Oct 02 | Wales
19 Jul 02 | England
30 Sep 02 | Breakfast
30 Oct 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | UK
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