Sharp increase in council litter fines
More local UK councils are hiring private companies to sting the public for litter fines.
A new investigation claims the number of litter penalties has soared from little more than 700 in 1997 to 63,883 last year. That's an 8,687% increase. One council - Bromley - saw fines rocket from a handful of £80 monthly fines to more than 600.
Easy targets are smokers at bus stops who flick their butts onto the pavement. The move to come down hard on anti-social behaviour - from dog mess to chucked beer cans - will be welcomed by many. But there is increasing concern about some of the tactics used.
Part of the strategy is using private environmental enforcement operators. Like XFor Group, which uses ex-Armed Forces personnel. On this company's website XFor claims it works with councils to "formulate unique, one-of-a-kind solutions to target the most pressing issues in your local area."
It's thought XFor (whose business model also covers parking enforcement) typically pockets around £35 for each £75 penalty meted out and is estimated to have issued more than 44,000 fines, bagging the company more than £1.5m.
PounceHowever a BBC investigation claims some over-zealous XFor litter wardens would stay well out of view before issuing fines at smokers - with no warning given.
The traditional council cash cows have been revenue raisers like speed cameras and car parking. Many will welcome the tough on-the-spot fines. But not, perhaps, if comes at the expense of other environmental perennial problems, like fly-tipping.
Or a lack of bins (unless a council thinks it will make more money issuing fines). There's also concern about accountability. For example, a private civil enforcement officer is not accountable in the way a police officer is, warn civil liberties groups.