Nearly £700k trousered by council and private patrol firm in first six months
Almost 93 percent of the thousands of people netted by Liverpool’s litter police were given penalty tickets for dropping cigarette ends, figures obtained by Liverpool Confidential have revealed.
Since the “zero tolerance” scheme started in March, the council’s privately run patrols have issued 13,689 fixed penalty tickets, netting fines of just under £700,000 to be trousered between the city council and Kingdom Services, the company it employs to stamp out “environmental crime”.
Figures given to Liverpool Confidential, under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, show that of the total number of tickets issued, 12,754 were dished out to people for dropping cigarette ends in the street. It represents just under 93 percent of all tickets issued, the other seven percent were issued to people dropping wrappers and paper.
Revenue from the fines totalled £696,690, going straight into the council and Kingdom’s coffers. For every £80 fixed penalty notice, LCC pays Kingdom £42.50.
The figures confirm what critics have feared, that the so-called "litter Stasi" will swoop on easy targets such as smokers, rather than get to grips with the problem of people who discard food wrappings, cans, bottles and other highly visible items of litter.
There have been reports of smokers being followed, the implication being that enforcers will wait to swoop, with a prohibitive £80 on-the-spot fine, if a fag end is carelessly discarded.
Any hopes that they can expect to be shown leniency will go up in a puff of smoke if a resolution, up for debate at this Wednesday’s city council meeting, is anything to go by.
Labour councillors Nick Croft and Paul Brant are calling on the city council to recognise “the serious threat to the health of human infants and animals posed by discarded cigarette butts”.
Their motion follows an article in the British Medical Journal claiming that discarded “cigarette butts may present health risks to human infants and animals…” and “in aquatic environments may cause exposure to additional toxic chemicals”.
The two politicians call on the council to reject the argument that discarding cigarette butts is a trivial offence, and they welcome the fact that 1,949 fixed penalty notices were issued for littering offences in July this year alone.
The want “Mayor Anderson and the Cabinet Member responsible to continue their efforts to crack down on litter and dumping and promote pride in our city”.
The responses to Liverpool Confidential’s FOI questions also reveal that in the vast majority of cases people pay their fixed penalties, with just 1,342 recorded as having their penalty payment outstanding.
There is no formal appeals process, with people wishing to challenge the issue of a ticket having to go before the magistrates court where a much higher fine is usually imposed if they are found guilty of litter dropping.
Since the scheme was launched 580 people have had their penalty tickets withdrawn due to legitimate reasons such as age or ill health.
The Laz Word: Local people, often with little money to spare, are paying the price
Chucking litter down onto the ground is never justified. It might be free and easy to discard something but somebody has to be paid to pick it up.
Bringing in a company to tackle the problem, at no expense to the council, may seem a good idea, until you read the small print. Operators Kingdom don’t charge the council a penny for providing the service. In fact it’s even better, they hand the council around 47 percent of the loot. Fag ends have become a nice little earner for the council and for Kingdom.
If the operators don’t issue any penalty tickets there is no money to pay their wages.
The temptation must be to go for easy prey: women, younger people, probably anybody who isn’t protected by a large dog.
The streets of Dick Whittington’s London may have been paved with gold, but as long as the streets of Liverpool are paved with litter and fag ends, the old adage “where there’s muck there’s brass” applies.
If they banned smokers from city centre streets to ensure there are no dropped fag ends anywhere from the Pier Head to the bombed-out church, it would make no difference to the cleanliness of streets already coated with unsightly chewing gum.
If the council were serious about running anything other than a get-rich-quick scheme, they would employ a litter patrol armed with a charm offensive, to educate people about litter, rather than a daily safari by uniformed people armed with penalty tickets and cameras going in for the kill.
A service company, not even based in Liverpool, is laughing all the way to the bank, and local people, often with little money to spare, are paying the price. Despite what councillors Croft and Brant say, a council-endorsed swoop squad isn’t the answer to cleaning up the streets.