Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 20th June 2018

We all know what the cause of litter is: people choosing to throw rubbish where they shouldn’t. I’ve seen people walk past bins only to discard their refuse on the floor. It’s only a small number of people who choose to engage in this anti-social, and in some cases criminal, behaviour but that’s all it takes to leave our streets looking untidy.

Thanks to the council’s hard-working street cleansing teams, pavements aren’t left permanently strewn with litter. As I have often remarked to people, if politicians were to disappear it would take a couple of months for anyone to notice, but if our frontline workforce went missing leaving litter left unpicked, grass left uncut or bins uncollected you can bet we would be getting calls the very same day.

Of course, rather than having to spend time cleaning up after people it would be much easier if they simply didn’t litter in the first place. Partly that’s a question of where we place bins, and monitoring litter levels over time does help us to improve their location, but more significantly it is about changing behaviour and that’s where the community wardens come in.

Community wardens have the power to issue fixed penalty notices and this is something they will do if a litterer refuses to pick up after themselves when confronted. Why not just fine them anyway? That approach has been tried in the past, but let’s remember that the goal here isn’t to see how many fixed penalty notices we can issue, but to reduce littering.

I like basing policy on evidence and data, so I find it worrying when our Conservative MP claims that the council is failing on littering because we haven’t issued a fixed penalty notice over the last two years, when over that same period littering has been cut by almost a fifth and flytipping by over a quarter. Compared to the issues he is voting on in Parliament on our behalf litter is a minor concern, if he’s unwilling to consider the evidence on such a basic issue, what else is he skipping over?

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