Ratepayers’ money going in the bin: Council spends £2.2million cleaning up after litter louts

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More than £2million of ratepayers’ hard-earned cash was spent cleaning up after litter louts last year, it has been revealed.

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council forked out a staggering £2,235,271 on cleaning roads, streets and open spaces during 2015/16.

The figure was highlighted by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful as part of its ongoing drive tackle the problem of littering locally and across the Province.

While the council’s 2015/16 spending figure was a reduction of almost 10 per cent on the previous year, the environmental charity has stressed that the cost of cleaning up after litter louts takes vital funding away from other important public services.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “If Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council was able to further bring down the £2,235,271 cost of cleaning up litter, think of how many more parks, leisure facilities and services the council would be able to provide to the public. Tackling the cost of litter is not just good for the environment and society, but also public services.”

Street cleansing is paid for by councils from their rates, with the average annual charge to every ratepayer in the country around £58.

Dr Humphreys continued: “In a fair society the polluter would pay for the clean-up, but at this stage the ratepayers of Lisburn and Castlereagh are footing the bill for other people’s carelessness.”

The council, which recorded a significant fall in the number of people actually caught and fined for littering in 2015/16, stressed that it takes the issue seriously and is “committed to reducing litter within its area through engagement and education with residents instead of relying solely on enforcements.”

“The council has a number of initiatives in place to work proactively with local schools and communities through the provision of support to promote litter awareness and environmental improvement through supporting community clean ups. However, where engagement and education may fail the council has agreed to increase the fine for littering to £80 under the Clean Neighbourhood Environment Act,” a spokesperson explained.

“Across the area last year a number of schools and community groups worked closely with the council to clean up their area and after such community-orientated litter picks there is a noticeable difference in these areas. The residents participate and demonstrate a sense of pride and commitment to keeping their community clean. The council provides litter picking equipment to such groups and will remove and dispose of all the litter collected during these events.

“At present the council is currently working on the development of an environmental improvement grant scheme. This will enable the council to provide financial support to local schools and community organisations to implement projects that will benefit their local environment.”

The spokesperson added: “With regards its regular cleansing activities the council offers a free bulky collection service across the council area, which has reduced the amount of illegal dumping/fly-tipping incidents for the year. It has also deployed park ranger staff in a number of key locations to improve the local litter management arrangements and mobile playground inspections being carried out across the council area.

“These efficiencies have delivered a positive reduction in the amount of localised littering within the new council’s parks, playgrounds and open spaces, therefore having a positive effect on its annual cleansing budgetary requirements. To compliment these the Council also placed graphics in key areas and on its refuse collection vehicles to remind residents not to litter.”