Mendip District Council has agreed to nearly double the maximum on-the-spot penalty its enforcement officers can issue and people can now be fined up to £150 for dropping litter in one part of Somerset.
The council claims the change is designed to bring its policy more in line with central government guidelines.
The council intends to enforce the changes inhouse by the council’s own staff – but private contractors will take over after six months if the results are not deemed satisfactory.
The changes were discussed in detail by the council’s cabinet, which met in Shepton Mallet on Monday evening (October 22).
With the new proposal, the maximum on-the-spot fine which can be issued will rise from £80 to £150. The fine will fall to £100 if the guilty party pays within 14 days of being served their penalty charge notice (PCN).
“The aim of this initiative is to ensure residents and businesses increasingly take control of their behaviour, leading to cleaner, safer environments and an improved sense of community and personal well-being through the reduction in anti-social offences.
“Income therefore generated from the use of enforcement powers is likely to decline as awareness increases and compliance improves.
“The government has announced that the maximum on-the-spot fine for dropping litter has risen from the previous ceiling of £80 to £150.
“The increase in the maximum on-the-spot fine for dropping litter will raise additional income,” Councillor Nigel Taylor said in his report.
There were some disagreements among cabinet members over whether the enforcement should be handled in-house by the council’s officers or whether the authority should hire a private company to do the job.
According to cabinet member Tom Killen, “We have got to ensure that there is a proportionate approach and not just targeting the quick wins.
“The press will chastise us for being heavy-handed to the 14-year-old boy who dropped his chewing gum, or to little old ladies.”
Councillor John Parham, on the other hand, maintained that going straight to an outsourced provider would free up existing officers’ time, which could otherwise be taken up with more training.