Exeter City Council is to hire a new member of staff to help in the battle against litter louts – and will pay for it through fines dished out to offenders.
The move follows a 12-month pilot scheme last year which saw enforcement company 3GS hired by the authority to fine those who deliberately dropped rubbish or failed to clear up after their dogs.
Culprits were issued with £100 fines, reduced to £75 for littering or £60 for dog fouling if paid within 14 days.
The trial ran from October 2018 to September 2019 and a meeting of Exeter City Council’s executive last week heard a total of 1,557 fixed penalty notices were issued. This resulted in the collection of £82,700.
The council paid nothing for the service during the trial, but 3GS kept the income from the fixed penalty notices issued.
The executive unanimously backed a recommendation by David Bartram, director of environment and city management, that an additional member of staff be hired and the existing civil enforcement officers take on environmental work as part of their duties.
He said: “This will enable us to provide a flexible enforcement resource that is able to undertake not just environmental enforcement, but also take action on parking, illegal camping and dog issues.
“The additional post will be paid for by the income generated from the fines and all the officers will be trained to do a multitude of tasks.”
Mr Bartram told Tuesday’s meeting the overwhelming majority of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued to people throwing down cigarette butts – 1,525 in total.
Fifteen were dished out for litter, 14 for spitting and three for chewing gum.
Of the fines issued, 1,125 involved incidents in Exeter High Street, 135 in Sidwell Street and 85 in Queen Street.
Mr Bartram added: “The ultimate aim is to ensure compliance rather than deliver income and only 13 people received an FPN on more than one occasion, indicating that receiving an FPN did alter future behaviour for the vast majority.”
Councillor Diana Moore welcomed the initiative and that more environmental enforcement was something that she was in favour of.
She also asked whether taking action against idling vehicles was possible, adding: “This action would help contribute towards the management of air quality in the city and would be an important last resort for the council for persistent offenders.”
Cllr Moore also asked for clarify on what was meant by ‘illegal camping’ – and if this meant that fines could be applied to people sleeping rough or travellers covered by the Equalities Act.
Mr Bartram said that the council would look into expanding the remit of the new roles to cover idling, but would have to make sure it had the legal power to do so.
He added that the ‘illegal camping’ would cover ‘attempted communities’ trying to spring up on council land and not travellers.
Cllr Phil Bialyk, leader of the council, added: “No, we won’t be fining those who are sleeping rough or who are homeless.
“We are certainly not asking the staff to put a hat on and start fining and issuing orders to people in this way.
“I understand the question, but please believe us, that is not what we are trying to do and that it is not our intention at all.
“Homelessness is a top priority. We are not unhappy with the progress we are making, but we want to do more.”
Tuesday’s full council meeting is recommended to approve the recruitment of an additional civil enforcement officer and to involve the existing team in environmental enforcement work alongside its existing duties.
The salary for the new post is expected to be funded by fixed penalty notice income based on the findings of the pilot scheme, Mr Bartram said.