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SWT to consider new litter enforcement scheme

20 December 2021 : Council news, Community, Environment

Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council is set to approve a twelve-month trial enforcement scheme as part of its ongoing commitment to help keep its streets and public spaces free of litter.

The trial scheme forms part of a new Litter Strategy aimed at reducing litter through targeted communications campaigns and strategically sited bins which are emptied according to usage.

The proposed strategy and enforcement scheme follows 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 commitment to protect and maintain litter-free environments in line with its Corporate Strategy for 2020-2024.

Not only is littering illegal and antisocial, it consumes considerable council resources. Keeping the district clean and free of litter costs the Council circa £1m a year.

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.

The litter enforcement scheme will be discussed at the forthcoming Community Scrutiny meeting on 6 January, before being considered for adoption at an Executive meeting scheduled for 19 January 2022.

If approved, it will enable the deployment of two new Environmental Enforcement Officers with delegated authority from SWT to issue fines to those breaking the law by dropping litter.

Charges for littering fines, better known as Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), are proposed at £100 and reduced to £80 if paid within fourteen days of the date of issue. 

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

Responsibility for the enforcement operation will be delegated to ethical enforcement company, EH Commercial Services (EHCS), as part of an inter-authority agreement with East Hampshire District Council.

EHCS is a for public benefit limited company wholly owned by East Hampshire District Council, specialising in the provision of ethical enforcement services to councils in the South of England.

The Enforcement Officers would be recruited and trained locally through EHCS and tasked with patrolling public spaces across the district five days a week on a rota basis.

Payments for FPNs would be taken by SWT, with administrative functions including the processing of FPNs, handling of complaints and appeals also delegated to EHCS.

Executive Member for Environmental Services, Cllr Andy Sully, said: “As a Principal Litter Authority, we have a duty to keep our public spaces clear of litter and debris and we're committed to protecting and enhancing our environment in order to safeguard the enormous range of valuable benefits it provides to us all, from clean air and water through to our diverse wildlife, beautiful landscapes, urban and green spaces.

“I must stress that the proposed enforcement scheme is not a money-making exercise, but rather a statement of our intent to apply best practice in education, balanced with proportionate enforcement and infrastructure to deliver a substantial reduction in litter and littering behaviour.

“We anticipate the scheme will conserve precious resources, which will be better used maintaining essential frontline services and any surplus revenue accrued through Fixed Penalty Notices will be reinvested into litter reduction activities.”

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