'Heavy-handed' bin fines face axe
Householders will no longer face fines for making "innocent mistakes" when putting out their bins under plans being announced by the Government this week.
Ministers are launching a consultation on moves to prevent councils from imposing bin fines of up to £1,000 on people who overfill their bins or accidentally put them out on the wrong day.
Under the proposed changes, local authorities would only be allowed to issue fines if they can prove residents are causing a "harm to local amenity" by putting out their rubbish incorrectly.
The tighter rules would still allow councils to take action against householders who cause problems for their neighbours or the local environment by the way they dispose of their rubbish, the Environment Department (Defra) said.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Heavy-handed bin fines have for too long been used to punish people for innocent mistakes. We are now consigning them to the scrap heap of history.
"We want to see people helping us to boost recycling rates by putting out their rubbish correctly, but bullying them with fines is not the way to do it. This consultation will mean that only those causing real problems for their community will get punished."
The move was first promised last summer in the Government's long-awaited waste review, which was dominated by accusations that ministers had performed a U-turn on weekly bin collections.
Despite calls by the Tories for a return to weekly bin rounds, lost in many areas as councils try to save money and boost recycling, the review did not include measures to force them to bring back the more frequent collections.
Local authorities are currently waiting for details of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles's pledge - announced before the Conservative Party conference last autumn - to make £250 million funding available for councils who retain or return to weekly bin collections.
Defra said that to give residents relief over bin fines before the new law was brought in, waste and recycling minister Lord Taylor was writing to all councils about plans for interim reductions in penalties. Fixed penalties currently ranging from £75 to £110 will be reduced to £60-£80 with a discounted rate of £40 for early payment.