Anger over Doncaster Council's £80 spot fines for dropping cigarette ends

Ashley Ingram believes the council's litter crackdown hits the poor
Ashley Ingram believes the council's litter crackdown hits the poor

One in 10 fines dished out for littering on the streets of Doncaster go unpaid - but a crackdown could reduce that figure.

And the 86 per cent payment rate is significantly above the national average, say officials at Doncaster Council who are taking measures to try to cut the number who fall through the net as a campaign over littering continues.

The figure is revealed as one angry resident resident criticised the fines and told how wardens 'appeared like ghosts' to hand him and his girlfriend £80 fines for dropping cigarette ends.

Officials say a number of measures have now been brought in to make sure they get the right people, by stopping residents trying to give out false names or addresses when challenged for litter.

A council spokesman said their officers have measures to make sure they have the correct person and cases have been to court to successfully prove people's identity using video evidence.

Bosses at the council say their officers have instructions to get proper identification off anyone who is stopped for littering offences on the streets, and have now been given instant access to a computer database that allows them to check addresses with names.

And enforcement officers are now being given chest cameras which can be used to confirm identities, say officials, which film and record with both video and sound.

But Ashley Ingram, aged 39, and his partner Jasmine Connolly, aged 18, are unhappy with the system which saw them both hit with fines for dropping cigarette ends, which they say will hit poor people disproportionately.

They couple were walking through Hexthorpe when they dropped the butts on the floor on August 9 and gave the officers their names.

Now the couple, from Hall Flat Lane, Balby, are furious with the bill after losing an appeal - but Ashley admits he will not be dropping cigarette ends on the street again after being hit in the pocket.

He said: "We were both walking along, smoking cigarettes, and we entered an alley next to Cherry Tree Road. I always try to put them out in an ash tray, but there were no bins present along the road.

"I could see a workman, but then two enforcement officers officers jumped out of nowhere, like ghosts, saying they'd seen us dropping cigarettes and were going to fine us £80.

"I appealed the penalty on the grounds that there were no bins present.

"But I don't think we were causing the litter problem. There was already a significant litter problem. If they had asked us, we would have picked them up, but we were not given the chance, or any warning."

He added he was angry because he felt the level of the fine was not comparable with the cost of clearing it up. " I want to know what it's spent on," he said. I think the litter problem in Doncaster has got worse, not better, since fines were brought in."

The couple live on £640 a month universal credit, and Mr Ingram says the fine will hit him hard. He has been given 10 weeks to pay.

Another resident, who did not want to be identified, said they had been fined for dropping an apple core from a van window, also in Hexthorpe. That also landed them an £80, even though they denied doing it.

Doncaster Council has defended the fines.

Assistant director of environment, Gill Gillies, said: “There is absolutely no excuse to drop litter anywhere in Doncaster, and this is the exact type of environmental crime that everyone hates to see in our town. The council spends around £3million every year just picking up rubbish, and tackling the problem is a key priority.

“It is ridiculous that Mr Ingram is complaining about a litter problem in Hexthorpe, when it is people like him who are creating the problem by dropping cigarette ends and other types of rubbish on our streets. The money received in fines is used on staffing to keep the streets clean and helping us with our enforcement work”.