Local authorities have called for a change in the law to give them more powers to tackle people who throw litter from their cars.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said that up to 70% of all litter offences escape punishment because of a legal loophole, which makes it almost impossible to take action against offenders.
According to the LGA, changes to existing legislation to place responsibility for litter dropped from a vehicle on the registered keeper would enable councils to enforce the law. Local authorities estimate that litter dropped from cars can account for 70% of street litter in some areas.
LGA environment board chairman Paul Bettison said: Registered keepers of vehicles can be prosecuted for speeding unless details of the offender are given, so why not for littering? As the law stands, local authorities are effectively charged with tackling this anti-social behaviour with their hands tied behind their backs.
Simple changes to the existing law would close the loopholes currently causing such confusion and inconsistency.
Calls for change follow the launch of the Campaign to Protect Rural Englands (CPRE) Stop the Drop campaign to tackle litter and fly-tipping (mrw.co.uk, April 17 2008). In response to a claim by CPRE that councils are not doing enough to tackle litter problems Bettison said: Councils have only had powers to use fixed penalty notices for littering since 2006, and in the first year alone issued more than 54,000. The Governments own figures also show an increase in enforcement action taken by councils against fly-tippers.
Current Government guidance advises councils not to issue fixed penalties for littering from vehicles unless the offender can be positively identified. However, positively identifying someone in a moving vehicle is very difficult and this, the LGA said, leads to inconsistencies in enforcement.