Doncaster’s ‘litter police’ issued more than 2,000 fines to people dropping cigarettes outside the railway station in just 11 months, new figures show.
The stats show the authority could have made up to £218,000 if all those fined paid their £100 penalty within the 28 day time limit which rises to £150 thereafter.
Doncaster Council and environmental enforcement firm Kingdom work in tandem issuing and processing fines to people who drop litter, fly-tipping and residents who fail to pick up dog mess.
But a Freedom of Information request has found enforcement officers issued 2,183 fines outside Doncaster railway station and prompted calls from residents and visitors that staff hang around the train station ‘waiting’ for people to drop cigarettes calling it an ‘easy win’.
Two people who have been fined for dropping a cigarette butt said they were followed and confronted inside Doncaster railway station.
Doncaster Council has denied enforcement officers are on daily targets but documents seen by councillors show the arrangement between Kingdom shows it is ‘essential to ensure Doncaster can recover more money through paid penalties and court fines, than is paid to the contractor’.
One opposition councillor said it was ‘unfair’ to target smokers in this way and called it a ‘waste of resources’.
The news comes after Bentley man Andrew Davies claimed he was ‘grabbed’ by a litter enforcement officer as he stepped into a taxi outside the train station.
He called private firm Kingdom ‘vultures’ who ‘hang around’ known smoking spots ‘waiting in the shadows’.
It is understood both the council and Kingdom take a share of the cut.
A spokesman for Doncaster Council said the percentage share was ‘commercially sensitive’.
Data published in 2017 shows Doncaster topped the table of UK councils in the number of litter fines issued.
The local authority handed out 3,574 fines - over 700 more than Leeds – the second highest in the country.
One man who was visiting Doncaster from Scunthorpe for work dropped a cigarette outside the station and was followed onto the concourse by the enforcement officer
He said: “I went for a cigarette before I got my train – as far I’m aware there’s no bins out there and I extinguished my cigarette on the floor.
“I saw no signs or anything that people were patrolling the area or anything like that – I wasn't even aware until the chap grabbed me inside that I’d dropped litter.
“They’ve been watching and waiting for me to drop it – there’s no warning where I was smoking to say if you do drop it you’ll get a hefty fine.
“Littering is bad – I shouldn’t have done it but the way the officer went about it is sly – he knew full well I was here to catch a train so I’m not going to stand and argue the case.
“I thought I’d get something like £25 for dropping a cigarette but £100 is absolutely ludicrous – it’s scandalous.”
Another woman, who didn’t wish to be named, said she was visiting Doncaster from London on business when she got fined.
She said: “I was inside the station looking at the departures board after I’d finished my cigarette – the whole thing actually resulted in me missing my train.
“The man who approached me was dressed in plain navy blue and there was nothing to indicate he was an enforcement officer of any kind.
“I get issuing fines for littering but the whole situation is hideous – outside the train station is the most obvious place for people smoking as they’ve been on very long journeys and they’ll get a 100 per cent success rate.
“It’s an easy win for them because they know you’ll always have people all day long smoking outside the station.”
Another smoker who didn’t want to be named outside railway station said: “People should be fined but there needs needs to be a bin directly outside the stations doors.
“People don’t notice or see an A4 piece of paper stuck on a white wall saying the smoking area is around the corner.
“It makes you think are they interested in keeping the streets clean or about making money? It’s just proper sly how they go about it.”
Conservative councillor Nick Allen said: “It is unfair and a total waste of resources for Kingdom to target smokers in this way.
“If the suggestion is true then DMBC need to look into that.
“Unfortunately, there are too many litter hotspots in Doncaster and Kingdom need to make sure their officers are working in those areas and not just targeting smokers.”
Coun Chris McGuinness, cabinet member for the environment, said: “Doncaster train station is a prime gateway into the town centre for people arriving in Doncaster. This is one of the reasons we are revamping the forecourt and making sure visitors and potential investors get a great first impression and see Doncaster in a positive when they head into the urban centre. Making sure the train station and other areas are clean and tidy helps enhance people’s views of Doncaster.
“We have a unique relationship with Kingdom in that they simply collect the evidence of people dropping litter. We check this evidence as part of our role in administering the fines, appeals and any court cases. Income from the fines offsets our administration costs and is used for other activities designed to keep our borough clean, tidy and attractive, like our enforcement work in tackling issues such as fly tipping.”
“It is not acceptable to drop any kind of litter on the floor or down a drain. Discarded cigarette butts are not biodegradable and are litter. When they go down drains they enter our rivers and watercourses and ultimately end up in the sea. This creates significant environmental pollution and harms wildlife. There are plenty of bins provided across Doncaster which includes dedicated smoking facilities and bins outside the train station.
“There is no conceivable reason why anyone should drop litter. Everyone has a responsibility, including residents and visitors, to ensure Doncaster remains clean and tidy.
“We have a dedicated team who work hard to help keep the borough litter free and we will take action against those who drop litter and do not take pride in our town.”