Lancaster’s hefty pay out to clean our streets

Litter in Lancaster.
Litter in Lancaster.

It is illegal to drop litter yet millions is spent cleaning up the city’s streets.

Lancaster City Council spends £1.5m a year cleaning up rubbish on our streets even though there are more than 1,200 public litter bins across the district.

A litter fixed penalty notice.

A litter fixed penalty notice.

Enforcements officers deal with littering/flytipping/dog fouling offences on a daily basis and 45 officers across the council have been trained to issue fixed penalty notices if they spot offenders whilst out attending their own duties.

Yet if every adult in the district picked up just one piece a day there would be up to 100,000 fewer pieces of rubbish to clean up.

A person is guilty of a litter offence “if he/she throws done, drops or otherwise deposits any litter in any place in the area of a principal litter authority which is open to the air and leaves it.”

Litter enforcement officers patrol the streets to address the rubbish strewn across the district’s highways and byways.

Chewing gum is the most common piece of litter dropped on the floor, along with cigarette butts.

Chewing gum is the most common piece of litter dropped on the floor, along with cigarette butts.

The teams are often faced with aggressive confrontations all for a load of rubbish.

Vince Ravetta has been an enforcement officer for 11 years and a litter enforcement officer for the past six.

During his time he has experienced aggression, misunderstandings but also good behaviour.

Vince said: “I have to make decisions on the spot. People are aggressive on the street to you but in court they are as nice as pie.

“I have had one runner who didn’t want to give their name to me, I started running after him and I thought what am I doing?”

The fixed penalty for littering stands at £80 and can increase to £2,500 if not paid and prosecuted through the court.

Last year more than 20 fixed penalties were issued across the district, with the main culprit being dog poo, cigarette ends and chewing gum.

A total of 27 fixed penalties for litter were given from 2013-2014 and so far 24 penalties have been given for 2014-2015.

The penalties are issued when litter is dropped and the person moves away.

A clear identification must be given from the officer and the person who littered. The action must be pointed out that it is an offence which carries a fine.

Their name, address and date of birth must be given.

Vince said: “Training is essential, we spend a lot of money trying to train and get people to understand about fixed penalties.

“People think as soon as litter is dropped it should be cleaned up and that’s unfortunately not what we can do, it’s the enforcement which is needed, not necessarily when they drop litter themselves.”

Enforcement officers do not issue fixed penalties to those under the age of 18 but can issue a warning.

If someone has a mental or physical disability the fixed penalty is withdrawn.

Lancaster City Council employs 14 beat sweepers and has eight mechanical sweepers.

Coun David Smith, responsible for community safety and clean and green, was a street sweeper in his early years and often feels frustrated by the amount of rubbish he comes across. He said: “Litter winds me up, it’s just the lack of respect and laziness of people.

“It is the minority of people because most people put rubbish in the bin, sometimes it is pure lack of thought.

“I go out in Lancaster, early in the morning, at 7.30am and it is spotless.”

Vince said: “We have to do something, we’ve got to do something, and it’s not just the council that should be reminding people not to litter, it’s about people living in the area, because we all live here and we would like a very nice environment to live in.”

If you have been issued a fixed penalty notice for littering it will need to be paid within 14 days of the offence to avoid further action by the city council.

The fixed penalty notice has no appeal.

If you need to dispute a fixed penalty notice this will need to be done through the magistrates courts.

If you have a litter problem in your area you can report it online at www.lancaster.gov.uk/streetscene.