More fines issued for littering offences

Fines issued for littering have risen by 15% since tougher penalties aimed at tackling Northern Ireland’s rubbish-strewn streets came into force.

However, there continues to be a wide disparity in how councils are dealing with the problem. Other figures released show that cleaning our streets costs around a staggering £40million each year.

The chances of being caught also varies widely depending on where you live. In five council areas the number of fines issued were in single figures. Ards Borough Council issued just three fixed penalty notices in the whole 12-month period. Ballymoney, Dungannon and South Tyrone and Limavady councils issued just four each while Moyle handed out seven fines.

In Banbridge 14 fixed penalties were issued - compared to 12 for the previous year.

In other areas a much tougher stance is taken. Belfast City Council – Northern Ireland’s most populated council area – accounted for almost half the Northern Ireland total. It issued 1,790 fines in 2012/13 – up 256 on the previous year’s figures. Craigavon Borough Council had the second highest total – albeit its 672 figure had fallen by around a third on the previous year’s figure.

Latest figures reveal 3,742 fixed penalty notices were issued by our 26 local councils in the 12 months to April this year. That is 10 fines handed out every day across Northern Ireland. By contrast, in 2011/12 some 3,268 fines were issued by local councils.

The rise follows the implementation of the Clean Neighbourhoods Act in April 2012, which handed councils tough new powers to deal with litter. Councils can now hand out more on-the-spot fines while nuisance parking, graffiti and fly-posting can attract an £80 fine.

And figures released by the Department of Environment show how councils are clamping down on the problem. Twenty of the 26 councils saw an increase in the number of fines issued during 2012/13. One local authority, Down District Council, saw a five-fold increase in the number of fixed penalty notices handed out – rising from 60 to 289.

A Tidy NI spokesman said: “The statistics are broadly similar to previous years, with the same handful of councils proactively addressing litter while others are failing to tackle the issue. There also appears to be an urban-rural divide, with councils in largely populated areas seemingly more inclined to punish offenders. However, councils are restricted by budgets and there is an onus on the public to take pride in their communities.”

Last year a TIDY Northern Ireland survey found more than one in 10 streets still fail to meet the government standard for litter.

The survey, covering 52km and collecting data from all 26 council areas, revealed that councils were forced to spend almost £40m on street cleansing in 2010/11 — a 14% increase on the previous year when it was £34m – just to maintain the current standard.

Chris Allen, Local Environmental Quality Officer with TIDY Northern Ireland said “It’s unfortunate that councils have to resort to fixed penalties to combat littering. Many people understand that it’s wrong to drop litter, but we clearly need to work harder and send wider the message that littering is wrong. For those that won’t listen, these figures suggest it’s more likely than ever before that you’ll be caught, and rightly so.”

TIDY Northern Ireland hopes to launch a Civic Pride campaign to instil a sense of social responsibility over our countryside. It hopes to change the cultural attitude where litter is viewed as someone else’s problem to the fact it is everyone’s problem, encouraging people to take pride in where we live.