Bristol’s litter police?

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The Clean Streets Enforcement campaign was introduced to Bristol last November as a council initiative. However, over these past three months, in excess of 3,000 fines have been issued, prompting claims of “heavy-handed” treatment.

The council claim that these “fixed penalty notices” are imposed to prevent “environmental crimes”. What constitutes an “environmental crime” is also described. The list includes dropping litter, spitting, graffiti, fly-posting, failing to clear up your dog’s mess or similarly failing to keep your dog under control.

The fines range from £75-£100, with a reduced rate if you pay within 10 days. Although if you fail to pay within the 14-day limit, then the council threaten fines of up to £2500, and the potential for a criminal record.

These fines are enforced by the private company Kingdom whom the council have hired to work on their behalf. However, through this three-month time-span, accusations have arisen about this company solely focusing on collecting the maximum number of fines for profit, as opposed to actually preventing littering or the supposed “environmental crimes”. We did reach out to Kingdom for a statement but they chose not to comment.

There have been a number of specific instances. Including one in January where a women complained that she was fined for dropping a cigarette butt on Gloucester Road, despite, as a non-smoker, adamantly denying the accusation. The woman in question told the Bristol Post, “it does my head in when people litter but there has to be a better way than just your word versus theirs, especially if you can’t see the footage straight away.”

This does not appear not be an isolated incident, with many others complaining and smokers seemingly being specifically targeted.

The council attempt to justify their actions on their website. They claim that picking up litter costs the city £6m a year, with around 7,000 tonnes of waste collected from Bristol’s streets. Consequently the council say that “this is money that could be better spent elsewhere”. Likewise, the council also make clear that it won’t cost the Bristol tax payer a penny, and any surplus money will be spent to tackle environmental issues within the city.

A council spokesmen, Kye Dudd, has also recently told the BBC that “it’s not to raise money, it’s to make Bristol look better”, whilst Mr Dudd also refuted claims that smokers were being targeted in particular.

Liverpool city council are also now taking similar action, with a system emerging whereby groups have to pay for their use of public parks in order to help the council maintain them.

Therefore, regardless of the successes and failures of these projects, it is clear that councils are struggling to cope and we expect to see many more taking further action. So, whether you believe these stringent fines necessary or overly strict, there is no doubt that they are impressing themselves on the city of Bristol and will continue to for the forseeable future.