Littering fines fail to meet target with council left to pick up the tab
A scheme to fine litterbugs in Rotherham originally meant to create a £100,000 saving for the council now looks likely to need an input of £7,000 to balance the books.
The proposed savings were projected down to £22,000 when the enforcement work, done under joint arrangements with Doncaster Council through the private company Kingdom, but low levels of fines issued mean it now appears likely the council will have to find £7,000 rather than benefitting from savings.
Details have emerged in a report to be considered by councillors, which outlines a series of problems with the project, which covers both littering and parking enforcement fines.
Figures from the last two quarters suggest wardens will be in line to issue the 1,000 parking tickets a year which were anticipated when the scheme was introduced.
However, when costs are stripped out each fine leaves the council with an income of less than £3.
For littering, by the end of June a monthly average of 211 fines had been achieved, compared to the 416 needed to hit the expected target of 5,000 per year.
The report states: “This level of performance has been raised as a concern consistently throughout the arrangement, and the contractor is working to improve the position.”
It was expected no more than 40 per cent of fines would be issued to offenders in the town centre, to allow for enforcement across the borough, but in fact 54 per cent have been handed out in that area.
Although work is going on to encourage more work outside the town centre, the report warns that could see enforcement levels dip further, because offenders are more thinly spread in outlaying areas.
The document goes on to explain: “Software used to record data does not currently have the capability of distinguishing between a fine for a cigarette end being littered and other litter being discarded. However, as with most offences for littering, it is highly likely that the overwhelming majority of fines issued and paid are for littering cigarette ends.”
Since the scheme was introduced, there has been a high turnover of staff – including two team leaders – which has had an impact on performance, councillors will be told.
Rotherham should have a team of five staff but there have been gaps left due to staff departures and numbers of fines issued in those periods have fallen correspondingly.
To try to answer that, three staff have now been employed to work across both Rotherham and Doncaster to plug gaps created by staff shortages, as required.
Details of progress with the contract will go to councillors on the Improving Places Select Commission, with the report explaining the current financial outlook: “Levels of revenue reflect the relatively low performance in terms of littering fines issued.
“Although originally a saving of £100,000 was allocated to revenue budgets in respect of the joint working with Doncaster, the Cabinet meeting of 15th April 2019 approved the reduction in this savings target to £22,000 following the agreement of alternative savings proposals.
“Consequently, against the saving applied to the budget, it is anticipated at this stage that a pressure of around £7,000 will be realised which will need to be accommodated from elsewhere within the Regulatory Services budget.”