The environment minister has written to Northern Ireland’s councils urging them to get tough on litter louts.
Alex Attwood said he wanted to remind authorities of the importance of developing and enforcing a strategy to tackle our growing waste problem. It has emerged that some councils are still failing to clamp down on offenders — despite the cost of clean-ups soaring to £40m a year.
Mr Attwood was speaking after revealing 3,268 fixed penalty notices were issued for littering during 2011/12. The figures, released in an Assembly question, were first reported by this newspaper last week.
They reveal huge disparities in the number of fines issued by councils.
Around 80% were issued by two councils — Belfast (1,534) and Craigavon (1,046).
By contrast, Dungannon council issued just one, while Ballymoney, Limavady and North Down handed out four each.
Mr Attwood described the figures as “wildly different” — and he wants councils to explain why.
“I’d like them to explain why the figures are as they are,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“I’ve requested responses by November 5 and I want them to say why there is such a wild differential between one and the other.”
He said his letter stated the importance of a litter strategy.
It comes just days after a survey revealed the filthy state of some Northern Ireland’s streets.
Tidy NI found over one in 10 streets still fails to meet the government standard for litter.
The annual cost of cleaning up runs to £40m — and Mr Attwood said it was important the message got through to offenders.
“An awful lot of money is being spent clearing the place up,” he added. “It seems reasonable that, if we are spending so much money, we are taking action against those who are littering our streets and countryside.”
Tidy NI chief executive Ian Humphreys said he welcomed the minister’s request to councils.
“We would back any move which leads to stronger enforcement action,” he said.
Mr Humphreys said education, positive campaigns and effective monitoring were also key.
“We need stronger action before we will beat the litter issue,” he added. “The fining is mainly for the 20% of people who ignore all the other messages. For the majority, a campaign and reinforcement will sort it out.”
Five councils issuing the fewest fines:
North Down: 4
Dungannon, South Tyrone: 1