Cigarette butts are biggest source of littering fines in Waltham Forest

In its first nine months on the job, Waltham Forest’s new enforcement company issued more than 7,500 fines – of which 5,000 were for littering cigarette butts.

Waltham Forest Council awarded the contract for handing out fines in the borough to 3GS last April, ending its use of previous contractor Kingdom LA.

From then until the start of  this year, the company handed out 7,581 fines for behaviour like spitting, urinating, flytipping and littering in the borough’s public spaces.

The bulk, however, were for littering cigarette butts, said to be one of the borough’s “biggest” littering issues, which requires street sweepers to clean the entrance to Walthamstow Central Tube station four or five times a day.

At a meeting of the council’s neighbourhoods scrutiny committee on March 29, deputy leader Clyde Loakes said there is “no excuse ever” for the act.

He added: “My view on this is we have thousands of street bins across borough, we have hundreds of residual waste bins in front gardens and you can take litter home with you.

“It is horrendous anti-social behaviour, the issue with it is we still have people doing it.”

However, less then half of the fines issued were actually paid last year, according to a report prepared for councillors.

To improve payment rates, 3GS staff are now getting “extra training” so they can carry out formal interviews to identify the offenders they are fining.

The committee report adds: “This enables the contractor to establish if the offender did commit the offence and if the offender is who they are saying they are, before issuing a [Fixed Penalty Notice].

“It can take three or four months after an FPN has been issued before some are finally paid so this should be taken into account when reviewing the percentage paid.”

Councillor Steve Terry asked why Waltham Forest has the “dubious number one spot” of bringing the highest number of prosecutions of the councils in the Thames Magistrates’ Court area.

Head of neighbourhoods for the council, Paul Tickner, said the 25 standard prosecution case files and 100 single justice procedure cases brought to court are a “good news story” because people understand “we are not going to drop it”.

Figures obtained by the Local Democracy Service last month show the council has issued £300,000-£550,000 worth of fines a year since 2016.

Between 2010 and 2015, when enforcement was still handled in-house, the council issued less than 2,300 fines a year.

However, after sub-contracting to a private company, Kingdom LA, for the first time in 2018, it began issuing about 10,000 fines a year.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter