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100 households a day fined by bin police


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22:48pm on 10th November 2006

recycle101106_228x474.jpgThe laws are also used to penalise householders who break the rules of rubbish recycling schemes




Nearly 100 people a day are being fined under laws that punish householders for leaving wheelie bin lids open.

More than 33,000 were handed on-the-spot penalties in the 12 months after the crackdown was launched.

The laws - also aimed at those who drop litter in public places - are regularly used to penalise householders who break the rules of rubbish recycling schemes.

This can include leaving out refuse in the wrong containers or on the wrong day and filling wheelie bins to the brim so their lids will not shut.

Yet while such petty offenders are targeted, the figures for fines show that large-scale flytippers are getting away scot-free.

In the same 12 months, the number of fly-tipping incidents rose by 12 per cent to more than a million - yet there were only 883 fines under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act.

Local authorities managed to catch and fine only 47 graffiti artists and 33 neighbours accused of making people's lives a misery with excessive noise.

There were also 4,066 fines for owners of dogs which fouled pavements and parks.

More than a third of the 33,000 fines went unpaid, but the penalties still raised more than £900,000 for local authorities, which keep all the money.

The 'clean neighbourhood' laws have provoked widespread discontent because they enforce new rubbish recycling regimes.

These demand that people leave out less rubbish, which is collected once a fortnight rather than once a week.

The figures from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs triggered accusations that the laws are being used to penalise ordinary families while major offenders go unpunished.

Caroline Spelman, Shadow Local Government Secretary, said: 'Fly-tipping is getting worse, not better.

'I am concerned that they may not be targeting the worst offenders if fines are being handed out to people who mistakenly put their bin bag out on the wrong day.'

'The situation may deteriorate further still if the Government pushes ahead with putting spy chips in our wheelie bins and forcing councils to axe weekly collections.'

Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford, a former local government minister, said: 'They are punishing people just for leaving their rubbish out, but they are doing nothing about the real bad news, the fly-tippers.

'While ordinary people get fined for breaking obscure rules, nothing is being done to deal with commercial fly-tippers.'

Economist Ruth Lea of the Centre for Policy Studies think tank said: 'People are beginning to realise that almost anything done under the banner of improving the environment is going to cost them money.

'These staggering figures show that local authorities are turning to coercion to enforce their recycling schemes. I have some sympathy for the councils, because they are being pressured into this by the Government and Brussels.

'But these fines are oppressive, cheap bullying, and grotesquely unjust to people who pay their council tax and expect the council to do its job and take their rubbish away.'

Recycling schemes have met growing resentment from the public and a number have had to be reversed in the face of discontent.

Typically, the schemes demand that families separate different kinds of refuse, to the point of stripping the plastic windows out of envelopes and dumping them in a different container to the paper.

Putting the wrong rubbish in the wrong bin can attract a fine.

The scrapping of weekly collections has provoked alarm and fears over hygiene and health.

This autumn Defra has, belatedly, ordered an inquiry into the health implications of fortnightly collections.

The Whitehall quango WRAP, in charge of pressuring councils to adopt compulsory recycling schemes, has advised town halls to bring them in during the winter - so the resulting smells will be less. By the time summer comes, popular opposition will have diminished, it suggests.

Earlier this week, town halls warned that council taxes are likely to have to shoot up to meet the cost of European recyling directives and Whitehall rules against landfill.

They also promised to try to bring in 'pay as you throw' taxes on rubbish and more fortnightly bin collections.

Some councils have levied fines on large groups of people. In Liverpool, 60 residents were fined and threatened with court because they put their rubbish out on the wrong day.

One, Alan Smith, said: 'This is ridiculous. There is a lot of antisocial behaviour in this area and all the council can do is pick people up for putting the bins out a day early.

'Gangs of kids are riding around on quad bikes and setting fire to trees, but there's no response to that.

'Residents are an easy target because the council busybodies know where they live.

'But no one can be bothered to find out who are these youngsters on the streets at night.'

The figures for fines were welcomed by the Government.

Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said: 'I am really pleased to say the number of local authorities using the system to tackle littering has increased.'

The Local Government Association, representing town halls, also defended the fines.

A spokesman said: ' Litterdropping is by far the biggest enviro-crime councils have to deal with.

'Local authorities strive to keep where you live clean and tidy and will not tolerate people who drop rubbish and spoil the area for the rest of the community.

'We are using fines and onthe- spot penalties to make sure council tax is kept down.'

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