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Bin fine curb will harm vulnerable, warn charities

Plans to curb councils’ abilities to fine residents for waste offences such as putting their bin out on the wrong day will hit vulnerable residents, charities and councils have warned. 

The Local Government Association and charities Age UK, Disability Rights UK and Living Streets RNIB said proposals to cull “bin fines” could restrict the ability of some people to walk safely down their own street.

The coalition of charities and councils have written to waste minister Lord Taylor detailing their concerns.

The letter said: “We are very concerned that not enough consideration has been given to people using and walking down their streets, particularly disabled and older people, those with sight loss, as well as families with young children in push chairs.

“If bins and bags are put on the street haphazardly or left out for long periods, many people’s ability to get down their own street will be restricted.

“This could have a significant effect on their ability to play a full and equal part in the community – for example in going to school or work, their ability to visit local shops and make social connections, and could put them at risk of injury.”

Read letter in full.

The group is concerned the reduced sanctions would not reflect the difficulty and danger to vulnerable street users, and the inconvenience and frustration for everyone that can result from bins and rubbish obstructing pavements.

They said they were particularly concerned about pedestrians having to navigate around bins and bags on their street at unexpected times.

Defra earlier this year consulted on plans to slash fine levels from up to £1,000 to £60-£80 or £40 on early payment (see box).

Defra’s bin fine proposals

Ministers outlined two options to replace the current criminal fines system.

Both options propose councils must be able to prove a household is causing “harm to local amenity” by putting out rubbish wrongly in order to issue a fine.

  • Option one:a new system of civil sanctions, but leave in place an underpinning criminal offence. The level of financial penalties would be “brought in line with comparable offences”.
  • Option two:move to a system relying exclusively on civil penalties with no underpinning criminal offence and reduce the level of the fines.

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management warned the “harm to local amenity” clause could force councils to “jump through onerous hoops” in order to secure sanctions.

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