Sheffield MP Clive Betts has thrown his weight behind The Star’s campaign to tidy up our city and crack down on the litter louts.
The South East MP today called for new action – including tougher fines for litterbugs – to tackle the problem
Writing exclusively for The Star, Mr Betts is urging people to take more pride in their city and for a change in people’s attitudes.
Mr Betts is the chair of the all-party Communities and Local Government Committee, which produced a report on litter and fly-tipping in England.
The Labour MP also suggests ways the situation could be improved, such as handing councils a portion of the tobacco levy in order to help them clean up discarded cigarette butts.
‘I am ashamed, embarrassed and angry. My constituents tell me they feel the same way.
Bluntly, my city and my country is a filthy disgrace. Nearly everywhere you look, you see litter. Most arrived through recklessness or carelessness. Some is deliberately fly-tipped.
Can it be different? Of course it can. There are some countries where you would be hard-pressed to spot any litter and, if by accident, a piece of paper gets dropped, you watch the guilty party chase and retrieve it.
There is no simple solution. Changing this environment requires significant changes in policy and behaviour by government, councils, and – most importantly – each and every one of us. Chewing gum and cigarettes are the most littered items, while fast-food litter increased by 20 per cent last year.
Nationally, there were 852,000 reported fly-tipping incidents last year, but only 2,000 convictions in the courts. The taxpayer pays an annual bill of £850 million in clean-up costs.
There are better ways of spending £85m in Sheffield over the next decade than on litter collection. I have a list of things that could be done, nationally and locally. Councils should receive a portion of tobacco levies to help pay for the cost of clearing cigarette litter.
Chewing gum manufacturers should make a greater contribution to the cost of clearing gum and staining, and should place anti-littering notices on all its packaging, wrappers and adverts.
There should be an obligation requiring all shops, restaurants and retail food outlets to keep the perimeters of their premises free from litter.
I want an increase in the level of the fixed penalty notice. Barnsley is a good example of where increased litter warden activity has produced an impact; it issued more than 5,000 FPNs last year, but bigger fines would almost certainly achieve even more. If naming and shaming litterbugs and fly-tippers is going to deliver a significant change in attitude and outcomes, then we shouldn’t be coy about doing it.
I welcome the introduction of FPNs for fly-tipping. But we also need more prosecutions with the courts delivering tougher penalties. This isn’t a victimless crime; we all suffer the consequences.
I also want the council to lead a partnership with other agencies, charities and community groups which would see bulky items collected free of charge, innovation with smart bins (with sensors indicating when they need emptying), ensuring regular community litter-picks and many more initiatives.
I want to be proud of, not embarrassed by, my city.’