CABINET CALL: By Coun Roger Gambba Jones, of South Holland District Council’s Cabinet
The government has announced a new strategy to address the scourge of littering.
It includes proposals to increase fines to as much as £150 for offenders and there’s even a proposal to make fly tippers clean up their mess.
If implemented, these will be welcome additional deterrents. However, in order to penalize offenders, you need to first catch them.
To catch somebody littering you need a trained officer, with the knowledge to know where and when the crime is most likely to be committed.
When it comes to catching a fly tipper in the act, the challenges are significant and come with certain risks.
The dumping is often done in a remote location and the enforcement officer will be working alone; many councils don’t have one officer, let alone a team of them.
Alternatively, and this is where we’ve had some notable successes with four figure fines, a fly tipper leaves a clue to the origin of the rubbish they’ve dumped.
Unfortunately, this often only leads to the source of the rubbish and not the fly tipper. These individuals are often serial offenders, working cash in hand and only known to their customer as ‘John’, but the ones we’d really need to get in front of the judge.
Litter bugs are even more challenging because, despite them also being the owner of the rubbish that’s dropped, they’re unlikely to leave their details with it. So, the problem remains the same. The size of the stick may be getting bigger, but the resources to wield it are not.
This means the public will continue to play a vital role in the fight to address all of these issues, by being those extra sets of eyes we simply don’t have. In cases of fly tipping, we need people to report any incident they see and if asked, provide a written statement for use as evidence.
Car owners are now liable for litter dropped from their vehicles, even if they didn’t actually do it. Drivers with a dash cam, who capture any such incidents, along with a number plate, can also help, by sending us the video as evidence.
I would, however, make it clear, that people should never put themselves at risk when attempting to collect information about the individuals, or the vehicles being used to commit any of these offences.