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Express & Star comment: Litter law must apply to everyone

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

In recent years local authorities across the country have made fortunes by the imposition of litter fines.

Wolverhampton council has been cracking down on litter louts in the city

For example, Wolverhampton council has handed out 17,000 penalty notices for littering over the last two years – bringing in the equivalent of more than £1,100 a day.

Now any right-minded person would agree that the presence of vast amounts of litter in the streets of our cities and towns is disgraceful.

Council bosses are quite right to take measures to attempt to curb littering.

And while issuing fines is one way of tackling the issue, there are question marks over precisely how the law is administered.

The fear is that far too often the focus is on snaring easy targets rather than those who persistently drop litter.

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Walk through any of the region's busy areas on a Friday or Saturday night and prepare to be presented with a mess that should shame us all.

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Fast food packaging piled up outside takeaways, and empty drink cans and bottles strewn across the roads and pavements are, unfortunately, a common sight.

Since our councils have been given powers to fine people for littering, has the problem reduced in magnitude?

Hardly.

In fact, there is an argument to suggest that it has got worse.

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Yet you can guarantee that the majority of littering offences – in the eyes of our local authorities – are not committed while people are on a night out.

How many people are fined for dumping their cigarette ends on the ground outside pubs?

Very few, we would imagine.

The suspicion is that those who are causing the majority of the problems are not being punished.

Littering costs the taxpayer a fortune to clean up.

It shows a complete lack of respect for the areas in which we live.

But it is the duty of those who enforce the legislation against littering to make sure that the right people are targeted.

In a time when we have special officers patrolling the streets specifically to catch people who drop litter, it is more important than ever that the legislation is properly administered.

Litter fines must not be seen as a cash cow by councils desperate to bolster their dwindling budgets.

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