In October last year, Blackburn and Darwen council announced they were hiring a private company, Kingdom Environmental Services, to ‘target litter louts and dog fouling’ with £75 fines for offenders.
I’ll reserve judgement on such penalties being proportionate to the crime, but Darwen, lovely little town that it is, does have a serious problem with litter. Just down the road in Blackburn, some areas look like a regular rubbish dump. So the idea of someone finally doing something about this, was largely welcomed. It was deemed a serious problem and bringing Kingdom on board a good response.
(My emphasis throughout)
“From next week litter louts and owners who let their dogs foul the streets in Blackburn and Darwen will face ‘on the spot fines’ if caught.
Fixed penalty notices for littering will be £75.
Fines for dog fouling will be £100, reduced to £75 if paid within 10 days.
Cllr Jim Smith, Blackburn with Darwen Council environment boss, said: “Decent people have simply had enough of this disgusting behaviour.
“This litter enforcement service is about taking back the streets for these law-abiding citizens, and making offenders take responsibility for their actions.
“Time and time again people have told me that dog fouling and litter are important priorities for them.
“So this is a warning for anyone who thinks they can leave their dog mess or drop litter and get away with it: you will likely end up with a big fine to pay.”
So the crackdown began in Earnest (Poor Earnest)
Six months later, the streets are still full of crap and dogs are fouling with impunity. The problem is still very visually evident in both towns, and if you travel a little further out of the centres, it’s even worse. It seemed to me that maybe Kingdom were not doing the amazing job they were supposed to do. They must have been doing something though, because they kept cropping up in the Telegraph, every time someone complained to the papers about a fine they had received
And it was happening a lot. For example:
“Man, 21, films himself challenging enforcement officer over ‘dropped fag butt’ fine after police called out”
“Smoker claims Blackburn with Darwen ‘litter police’ followed him”
“Man fined for dropping cigarette stub calls for more Burnley town centre bins”
“Darwen fag butt on trainer dad loses appeal against £75 fine”
“Blackburn with Darwen litter officers like ‘secret police’ says cig butt dad on benefits”
So Kingdom are certainly active, but looking at the articles in the Lancashire Telegraph that I was able to find, they are all about smokers. Could it be that Kingdom are only targeting people who drop fag ends and not other types of litter?
Could it be that dog fouling is not actually a priority to them and smokers are their only target?
“They are like secret police. They appear from nowhere and just slap you with a fine.”
“They are far too strict and show no leniency or common sense.”
I decided there was only one way to find out.
Nope. There was another way. I fired off an FOI request to B&D council and asked exactly what they had issued fines for in the last six months. The results:
Fines issued for litter – 137
Fines issued for dog fouling – 26
Fines issued for cigarette buts – 4113
There’s only one way I can interpret that. Kingdom Environmental Services were employed to target people who enjoy a legal product, that the council disapproves of. Ok, fair enough, smokers should not be dropping their cigarette buts on the ground, there’s really no excuse for it. But if the council were being honest with the people, they would tell us that this scheme is simply there to make money off smokers. If it was anything to do with litter, then dog fouling and other types of litter would be targeted with equal zeal to fag butts.
This is not happening. Looking at those figures, dog fouling and other types of litter are simply a distraction for the enforcers. They are following smokers around town waiting for the opportunity to pounce, but only ticketing other offenders if the offence is so blatant, they can’t get away with not doing so.
These are the figures in full:
Litter – black bag = 2
Litter – cigarette = 4113
Litter – food = 16
Dog fouling = 26
Litter – other = 110
Litter – printed material = 9
Smoke free = 151
I confirmed with the council that ‘Smoke Free’ relates to the indoor public place and work vehicle smoking regulations. Apparently Kingdom are now enforcing those for the council too. If it was just about litter, if it was only about ‘taking back the streets for law abiding citizens’, why would Kingdom also be involved in enforcing smoking bans in indoor spaces and vehicles? No. In my opinion, it’s not about litter and it probably not even about the fines. These people were brought on board as another weapon against smokers and smoking.
Next time someone tells you smokers cost society money, you can add £319,800 in fines to the ever increasing cost of various tobacco taxes. To them, we’re just cash cows.