Is this a fine time for the end of litter fines?

Litter in Wigan town centre:  Market Place
Litter in Wigan town centre: Market Place

Hundreds of litter-bugs hauled in front of Wigan courts could be a thing of the past with a new approach to town centre cleanliness.

Wigan Council’s contract with 3GS to deliver environment enforcement services is due to come to an end.

Karl Battersby

Karl Battersby

And town hall bosses have suggested a fresh policy is needed, moving away from the mass distribution of fixed penalty notices while maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to littering.

The fresh scheme will be centred around the council’s Deal structure which will see investment made in improving the town centre with residents expected to show pride in their surroundings in return.

Karl Battersby, director of economy and environment, said: “We’ll be having our own staff deal with that sort of thing in a more ambassadorial way than what it appears now, we’re looking to have a better approach.

“We’ll put these resources in (to improving the town centre) and residents will be expected to do their bit to recycle properly and not litter.

“This is more in line with the concept of the Deal and the way we deal with the environment will be restructured around the Deal for the Street.

“As part of this we’ll be looking to have a renewed push about littering.”

The Deal concept was launched in the borough in 2013 as the council developed new methods to cope with budget cuts.

In return for the local authority maintain frontline services and reducing tax bills, residents are asked to do their bit to improve their community.

The council’s crackdown on littering in the town centre - through its contract with 3GS - has in recent years attracted criticism with enforcement officers accused of being over-zealous.

Scores of littering offences would be heard at Wigan Magistrates’ Court each week as a result of fixed penalty notices being issued and then not paid by the recipients.

Last year one Orrell resident was hit with charges close to £500 for dropping a cigarette butt on Hallgate.

In one six month period last year, more than £73,000 had been forked out in fines, court statistics revealed.

The council had often defended the previous policy though with a town hall spokesman previously telling the Evening Post: “Everyone wants to see a cleaner, greener borough but there are still people who want this but ignore the law and choose to drop a cigarette butt or chewing gum.”

Town hall chiefs have also defended themselves from accusations their policy has persecuted smokers after research showed that a massive 96 per cent of folk put in the dock for littering had dropped cigarette butts.

Statistics showed smoking-related incidents accounted for 283 littering cases seen at Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court between January 1 and June 30 in 2015. The remaining four per cent prosecuted for other forms of littering one person was hauled before the bench for dropping a cigarette packet and another for throwing a wrapper on to the ground.