Litter police ‘unfairly targeting’ bus and train passengers at Bristol stations without bins

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Campaigners say officials working on behalf of the city council are ‘lying in wait’ to issue £100 fines

Bristol’s litter police are unfairly targeting bus and train passengers and drivers who “put down cups” at stations without bins, it is claimed.

Public transport and disability campaigners say officials working on behalf of the city council are lying in wait to issue £100 fines at hubs, including the central bus station and Temple Meads, and have called the practice a “major concern”.

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The local authority says it will raise the issue with its current contractor 3GS, which enforces littering offences, and that the company’s role is to “educate and inform” the public and businesses, not just hit them with fixed penalty notices (FPNs).

Bristol City Council has also admitted that its efforts to stop smokers being fined in massive numbers have failed, with 19 out of every 20 FPNs post-pandemic being for dropped cigarette butts.

It comes as the authority announced it is on the hunt for a new operator to tackle the environmental crimes, which include fly-tipping and dog fouling, with spoils of £1.7million to whoever is awarded the contract, according to a report to cabinet.

In a statement to the meeting, David Redgewell and Gordon Richardson, of Bristol Disability Equality Forum, said: “We have noticed the environment enforcement officers targeting passengers who have put down cups outside the cafes outside the main bus station entrance.

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“Bus and coach drivers have been targeted whilst having their breaks, sitting outside the station.”

They said it gave passengers travelling from afar a poor first impression of the city – threatening them with fines – and that it had caused “distress for disabled people”.

The campaigners said: “Bristol City Council does not provide litter bins in the area of the cafes.

“We have no notice by the council to say litter enforcement officers are in operation .”

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Mr Redgewell, who is also a member of Bristol Public Transport Safety Partnership, added: “I have watched with deep concern these officers in operation and the problems they are causing to passengers at the main bus station.”

“We are very concerned that the enforcement officers, unlike those in Banes, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset, are spending their time on litter enforcement duties sitting outside Bristol bus and coach station and at Bristol Temple Meads station.”

He said both locations had very limited bins for security reasons.

“Fines to passengers for putting down coffee cups is of major concern to me as a passenger representative – it does not happen at other public transport interchanges,” he added.

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A city council spokesperson said: “We welcome local transport campaigner Dave Redgewell’s statement to cabinet and will raise these concerns with our contractor.

“We expect the contractor to work with residents and businesses to identify the areas where targeted enforcement is required to respond to issues of littering.

“The role of environmental enforcement officers is to educate and inform people and businesses of the issues associated with litter as well as issue fixed penalty notices where someone is seen to have committed a littering offence.

“Improving the cleanliness of the city and tackling environmental crime remains a high priority for the administration as set out in the city’s Clean Streets plan.

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“Poor behaviours associated with littering, dog fouling, flytipping, graffiti and other environmental crimes negatively impact residents, visitors, businesses and the city’s reputation.

“Whilst the cleanliness of many parts of the city has improved, we recognise more work needs to be done to encourage better behaviours across Bristol.

“This includes introducing more bins where possible, working with Bristol Waste to deliver community litter schemes and ensuring we have a robust enforcement contract in place to deal with environmental crimes.”

The council said the enforcement officers were permitted to enter the bus station to approach people alleged to have committed an environmental offence outside the station but that they “cannot and will not enforce offences within the bus station”.

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It said 3GS was discussing with the station operator about repeated reports of littering around the site and the authority expected both parties to work together constructively to address this.

The council’s first litter enforcement partner, Kingdom, proved controversial when its officers began patrolling the streets in November 2017, with accusations including “intimidation tactics” and too much focus on smokers.

Kingdom issued 12,000 fines before it was dropped in February 2019 when 3GS was awarded the contract and went on to hand out 19,000 FPNs totalling £1.5million over the next four years.

The deal with 3GS is now ending and cabinet agreed to put a new four-year contract – starting next March – out to tender.

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A report to the meeting on Tuesday, July 4, said: “Within the pilot contract we found that 97 per cent of fines were for dropping cigarette butts with Kingdom.

“Our aim with the second contract was to reduce that number and with 3GS, 84 per cent of fines were issued for cigarette butts.

“Unfortunately, post-pandemic issues have seen the percentage of fines issued for cigarette litter grow to 95 per cent, bringing a contract to date figure of 90 per cent.

“This reflects a nationwide, indeed global problem.”

It said that while FPNs were important to change smokers’ behaviour to dispose of their rubbish responsibly, “cigarette butts are not the only littering or waste issue”.

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The report said lessons learned included how to “align resources to tackle hot spots”.

A council spokesperson said: “Litter from the dropping of cigarette butts is a persistent problem across the UK.

“The growth in the percentage of fines issued for cigarette butt littering demonstrates that this is an issue that remains high on the list of poor behaviours that needs addressing.

“Whilst we will work with our environmental enforcement contractor and partners, both locally and nationally, to encourage people to change their behaviours, we will not discourage officers from issuing fines where they witness people choosing to drop their litter rather than dispose of it responsibly.”

Since 2017, 2,500 people have been prosecuted in court for littering offences. Bristol has 1,620 street litter bins.

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