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‘Bin fines’ to be scrapped – Pickles

Councils in England will no longer be able to fine residents for household waste offences, communities secretary Eric Pickles has announced.

He labelled the fines “unreasonable” punishment.

Fines of up to £1,000 will be scrapped for putting rubbish in the wrong bins, on the wrong day, failing to recycle or overfilling bins. On the spot penalties – which can cost up to £80 – are also expected to be removed for waste offences.

The Government announced plans to cut the maximum charges councils could make in May last year, from £75-£110 to £60-£80. Figures obtained by the Sunday Telegraph suggested 5,000 fixed penalty notices were issued between May 2010 and April 2011 for bin-related offences, totalling £215,955.

Pickles told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “I’m delighted to make the announcement that given the unreasonable nature of these charges we are actually going to legislate. If you put the wrong yoghurt pot in the wrong bin it is ludicrous to fine people.”

Councils have always said that no-one is penalised for such trivial or one-off mistakes. LGA environment board chairman Cllr David Parsons said: “Householders need not have any concerns that innocent mistakes like leaving the bin out on the wrong day or putting paper in the plastics bin will land them with a fine.

“Only a tiny minority of households persistently leave their waste piled up in the street or wilfully contaminate their recycling – which means all other recyclables collected alongside them have to be sent to landfill.

“In these exceptional cases, where repeated attempts to help and educate them have failed, councils need effective and proportionate powers to ensure the inconsiderate actions of the few are not allowed to jeopardise the recycling efforts of the majority.”

Pickles said that families should be rewarded for recycling, through schemes such as those trialled in Windsor and Maidenhead, where families receive vouchers to spend in local shops or leisure facilities for recycling their waste.

Defra examined bin fines in its ‘Review of Waste Policy in England’ in 2011, when it said: “We are aware that householders want serious, repeat offenders whose behaviour has a detrimental impact on their neighbourhood to be dealt with effectively. Equally, there is public concern about the heavy-handed use of fixed penalty notices. A civil sanctions regime will enable local authorities to more effectively target those who persistently disregard the law.

“To ensure local authorities use enforcement powers appropriately we are proposing to set ‘harm to local amenity’ as a test before a civil penalty can be imposed by a local authority in all cases. This will allow action to be taken against the small number of people who blight the majority of the public’s lives – ‘neighbours from hell’ and the irresponsible minority who litter their neighbourhoods.”

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