Islington Council makes up to �187,000 from litter fines

2,348 fines for offences – including dropping cigarette butts – compared to 122 in neighbouring Hackney and just 78 in Camden.

Litterbugs caught dropping cigarette butts and sweet wrappers were fined up to �187,000 in one year – prompting accusations that Islington Council is using litter fines as the latest “cash cow”.

New figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in 2011-12, the council issued 2,348 litter fines worth �80 each, or �50 if paid within 10 days. It amounts to between �118,000 and �187,840, but the council was unable to give a precise figure.

This places Labour-run Islington as the eighth highest council in the UK for the number of litter fines. Neighbouring Hackney only issued 122 fines while Camden issued just 78.

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said the fines should only be used to “change habits among the ignorant few”.

He continued: “This council has real form when it comes to treating residents as cash cows. Parking and now litter are turning into huge money-spinners for the council. There is nothing fair in treating people as easy targets and making them cough up money like this when so many residents are feeling the pinch.”

Several people have complained to the Gazette about being followed and fined for dropping cigarette butts. Sales manager Caroline Decroux, 34, who was fined as she walked to Angel Tube Station on June 14, said: “To follow citizens and charge �50 if they throw a cigarette end on the streets is just ridiculous. This council will obviously do anything to make money.”

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The figures, which show the fines were issued by 35 council officers and 45 private contractors, were unearthed by campaign organisation The Manifesto Club, whose director Josie Apppleton believes litter fines are increasingly being used “as a money-making operation for cash-strapped public authorities and their growing army of public contractors” rather than as a last resort.

John O’Connell, research director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the council could “show some discretion – such as telling people who drop litter that they could be fined next time.

Caroline Russell, chairman of pedestrian action group Islington Living Streets, praised the council for having “remarkably clean streets” but did raise concerns at the amount raised and the accompanying administration costs.

The council said it was simply trying to keep the streets clean – the “number-one priority” of many residents – while dealing with government cuts of more than �4,000 per household.

Cllr Paul Smith, executive member for environment, said: “Islington street sweepers have to travel the equivalent of five times round the earth every year to keep our streets clean.

“The best way to keep the cost down, given the government cuts, is to stop people littering in the first place. That is why those who do the wrong thing get a fine.”