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2000: Litter louts escape the law

VIDEO : The BBC's Kevin Bocquet reports: "People dump their litter even though there are waste bins just a few yards away"

The campaigning organisation Tidy Britain Group has condemned local councils for failing to enforce litter laws.

A new survey, carried out by the anti-litter charity, reveals that of 80,000 complaints only 422 led to fixed penalties. Of these fines 196 were never paid.

Government figures for clearing up the UK streets are set at 340m per year.


" Local councils are failing to use the strong powers provided "

Alan Woods, Tidy Britain Group

Yet the latest statistics reveal a drop in prosecutions since anti-litter legislation came into force in 1990. In that year 2,500 people were prosecuted. By 1998 the figure had fallen to just over 500.

The 1990 Environment Act gave councils the power to employ litter wardens and issue on the spot fines of 25, or charges of up to 2,500 for cases taken to court.

But the chief executive of the Tidy Britain Group, Alan Woods, said: "Local councils are failing to use the strong powers provided to prosecute offenders - and that means the litter lout is getting away with it."

According to the survey the North-West region performed worst with only one fine and no prosecutions despite 18,000 complaints.

Wandsworth Council presented the cleanest example with 297 fines last year - three quarters of the total for the whole country.

Local authorities blame costs and difficulties in enforcement for their seeming reluctance to use the litter laws. The fines are also not seen as cost-effective since the money collected goes to central government and is not retained locally.

Encams is an environmental charity that replaced the Tidy Britain Group and Going for Green organisation in November 2001. About half of its funding comes from the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Their litter campaign operates under the 'Keep Britain Tidy' banner

Rubbish facts

  • Phase one of The Encams Local Environmental Quality Survey indicates that the most commonly found types of litter are:
  • Smoking related - 77% of all locations surveyed
  • Confectionary related - 53% of all locations surveyed
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