According to the Express & Star, Sandwell Council street wardens are certainly justifying their salaries having issued more than 6 times as many on-the-spot fines as their counterparts in the neighbouring borough of Dudley, making the council a tidy £165,000 if paid in full.
Proactive council employees in West Bromwich issued 1000 of the total 2,200 handed out in Sandwell, and though this is clearly a pretty good money spinner for the local authority it seemingly isn’t acting as a deterrent to litterbugs, dog walkers and budding graffiti artists in the area. The borough is reportedly still ranked 2nd worst in the country for its messy streets.
So rather than reducing the amount of rubbish, it appears this council are just making money from it. Time for a reassessment of whether this is the most effective way of tackling to problem? Hardly likely when they’re raking in so much money.
Incidentally, one informant who was hit with a £75 fine in the borough after dropping a cigarette butt had no defence when issued with a ticket, but was rather bemused to be told 'not to worry about it' by the high visibility jacket wearing officials when he offered to pick up the offending article. Doesn’t give much credibility to the argument that these fines are issued for the mission, not the money.
But then it’s easy to criticise Sandwell and their watchful/pernicious environmental wardens, lurking in the shadows with the intention to swoop on the naïve, stupid or thoughtless, yet the number of fines in other areas barely seem to justify having officers on the job.
Just 336 fines were dealt in Dudley, 156 in Wolverhampton, 60 in Cannock, 45 in Lichfield and a paltry 34 in Walsall. As one canny commenter on the E&S website says – do the maths, surely an extra street cleaner would be cheaper/more effective than these wardens?
No-one is arguing that paying our council tax gives us carte blanche to scatter our detritus onto the pavement, but certainly in Sandwell, money that perhaps should be diverted to pay for street cleaners is instead paying for these predatory environmental officers with no real results other than for the council coffers. The local authority should be working in our interest which is, in this case, to have pleasant clean streets, and the issue of 2,200 fines seems to confirm that this project just isn’t working.