Manifesto Club says Newham Council earned £600k from litter fines

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Media captionCouncils collect thousands from litter fines

London councils are earning thousands of pounds from fixed penalty litter fines, a think tank has said.

A report by the Manifesto Club said the highest earner in the UK was Newham Council, which collected more than £600,000 last year.

Josie Appleton, the report's author, said she thought some local authorities were using the fines to make money.

Newham Council disputed the data saying it got £369,255 from penalties in 2011, but spendt £11m a year on cleaning.

Richard Tracey, of the London Waste and Recycling Board, said picking up litter was "a costly business".

The Manifesto Club said the figures came from requests made under the Freedom of Information Act.

'Apple core'

Ms Appleton, founder and director of the think tank, said: "What's wrong is when councils are using it to make money for themselves or a private company is working on a commission basis to make money.

"What that means is that people get fined for the most trivial of offences, not the most serious which I think are the ones that everyone would like to see punished.

"We've found people being fined for things they dropped by accident, a man was fined for throwing an apple core in a hedge in the countryside, a woman for dropping a matchstick.

"These sorts of things which people wouldn't see as litter and the only reason they're being fined is because the authority or the private company wants to make money out of them."

She said councils needed to provide bins for cigarette butts, one of the main things people get fined for.

'Incredibly expensive'

A spokesman for Newham Council disputed the £600,000 figure, saying the report was "misleading".

He added: "The borough spends more than £11m a year on cleaning our streets, waste and recycling.

"We recovered £369,255 from fixed penalty notices issued by our enforcement team.

"This clearly shows it costs significantly more to tackle the problem of litter than the authority receives in fixed penalty notices. We make no apology for tackling littering which is anti-social behaviour."

The report said Enfield Council was the second highest earner, collecting £337,000 from litter fines in the past year.

Chris Bond, the authority's cabinet member for environment, said: "Enfield Council spends more than £4.2m each year keeping our streets clear of rubbish so its misleading to suggest the £337,000 we raise through financial penalties is a money-making exercise when that cash is simply ploughed back into the service.

"The bottom line is that if people did not drop litter they would not receive a financial penalty and we would be able to spend more money in other areas."

Richard Tracey, chairman of the London Waste and Recycling Board, said cigarette butts could block drains in places where many are dropped.

He said: "This is the same argument that comes out from bodies like the Manifesto Club about parking, fixed penalty notices is what they're complaining about.

"If you go and talk to members of the public on the street about litter, they will probably support their local council issuing fixed penalty notices.

"Many of the councils feel they have to deal with it on behalf of their residents.

"I quite agree that if they are simply using it as a cash cow in some cases, that is ethically wrong.

"But frankly, where it's fair game to issue a fixed penalty notice to somebody just willy nilly throwing litter out, that's totally fair I think."

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