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SWT approves new litter enforcement scheme

25 January 2022 : Council news, Community, Environment

Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council has approved a new enforcement scheme to help keep its streets and public spaces free from litter.

The new scheme, which was adopted unanimously during last Wednesday’s Executive meeting (19 January 2022), will permit litter enforcement operations to be carried out by EH Commercial Services (EHCS) from 1 April 2022 as part of a 12-month trial with East Hampshire District Council.

SWT’s Executive Councillors voted unanimously to adopt the scheme, agreeing that ethical enforcement delivered through an established public partnership was considered the most cost-effective option.

The agreement will enable the recruitment and deployment of two new Environmental Enforcement Officers through EHCS with delegated authority to issue littering fines throughout SWT’s urban and rural hotspots. EHCS is a 'for public benefit company' wholly owned by East Hampshire District Council, which specialises in ethical enforcement services for local authorities in the south of England.

Not only is littering illegal and antisocial, it consumes considerable council resources.  Keeping the district clean through litter removal and mechanical sweeping costs the Council circa £1m a year. Furthermore, the environmental impact from discarded litter often leads to clogged stormwater drains resulting in flooding after heavy rain, or it can enter rivers, canals and the sea, threatening aquatic ecosystems.

To avoid prosecution, anyone issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for a littering offence will be charged at £100, which will be discounted to £80 if paid within fourteen days of the date of issue. Payments will be taken by SWT, with administrative functions including the processing of FPNs, handling of complaints and appeals also managed by EHCS.

The officers will be familiarised with SWT's safeguarding procedures, ensuring FPNs are not issued to vulnerable adults or individuals under the age of 18. Body cameras will also be worn to protect themselves and members of the public.

The enforcement scheme supports a new Litter Strategy which was also adopted during Wednesday’s meeting. The strategy aims to reduce litter more widely through the provision of strategically sited and frequently serviced bins to facilitate ease of disposal, and public education to encourage positive change.

Both the strategy and enforcement scheme adheres to the Government's 2017 Litter Strategy for England, encouraging local authorities to improve their environments with appropriate and proportionate enforcement. They also support the Council’s corporate commitment towards maintaining litter-free environments.

Executive Member for Environmental Services, Cllr Andy Sully, said: "Tackling litter at source through good infrastructure combined with proportionate enforcement will help change the behaviour of people who feel it's acceptable to drop litter.

"However, rest assured the adoption of the enforcement aspect is not a money-making exercise but intended rather an effective deterrent in the fight against littering which is a criminal offence. The revenue gained will be used to fund the service and any surplus made must, by law, be reinvested into environmental activities by the Council."

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