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Cuts 'may worsen litter problem'

England's litter problem has not improved in the past year and may get worse as public spending cuts bite, a report suggests.

A survey by Keep Britain Tidy found sweet wrappers, drinks, fast food and smoking-related rubbish had all increased in the past 12 months.

It found eight out of 10 places are blighted with cigarette butts - an increase of 5%.

Almost all retail sites surveyed as part of the annual Local Environment Quality Survey for England (LEQSE) also had evidence of cigarette littering, while graffiti in main retail areas was at its worst level since the surveys began.

Keep Britain Tidy said year on year data showed a trend of worsening dog fouling in the winter months and chewing gum stains had also risen by 4%.

The report suggested the rise in littering could be linked to public spending cuts.

Its executive summary said: "Local environmental quality standards overall are being maintained in England, which is promising in a field that has undoubtedly seen some cuts and efficiency savings already over the past year. There is evidence of some standards dropping in a few instances, and it will be interesting to investigate correlations in these areas against issues highlighted by the public as less important, to see if cleansing or spending decisions are being affected noticeably by local prioritisation in coming years."

A spokeswoman added: "We know that for a lot of people, local environment quality is very important to them and £858 million was what it cost last year to clean England's streets. We are spending an astronomical amount of money on it and if that was to reduce considerably, it could lead to worsening litter."

According to the survey, the South East and the South West were the joint top performing regions. It said alcohol-related litter had dropped by 3%.

Keep Britain Tidy, which produced the report for Defra, joined with partners to launch an anti-littering message.

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