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Not enough time for Government to plan an exile of shame streets

By Paul Sanderson

One day, the people of England and Wales could be walking down perfectly clean streets, free from fly-tipped waste, unblighted by graffiti, no abandoned cars and threatening alleyways closed off.

Local authorities will be routinely fining offenders who drop litter and make our streets a less pleasant place to live and work on.

Although this seems like an image of Eden, it is the aim of the Government following the announcement in last weeks Queen Speech of a Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill.

This legislation will give local authorities and other agencies stronger powers to tackle problems associated with antisocial behaviour and the local environment.

It will also give local authorities and parish councils the power to fine householders for putting rubbish out on the wrong night, which encourages litter. It will also make it illegal to toss trash on public as well as private land.

And despite some rumours that the bill will contain measures to introduce variable charging on waste collection, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has been advised that this is not the case.

Bolton South East MP Brian Iddon said: The Government is listening to the opinions of people from across the UK and one of the clear messages is the desire to clean up our streets and neighbourhoods.

This bill will link up with current Government initiatives to crack down on abandoned cars, strengthen legislation and penalties for fly-tipping, reinforce powers for dealing with graffiti and provide local authorities with more powers to tackle noise nuisance.

Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Alan Woods added: Politicians of all persuasions need to wake up to the fact that feeling good and safe about the place you live in is one of the most vital issues of the day.

While successive Governments have paid lip service to this, all the indications are that the Clean Neighbourhoods Bill could be an important piece of legislation in terms of improving the environment.

But is the bill likely to make it onto the statue books during the next session of Parliament?

It seems unlikely. Rumours are circulating around Westminster that the Prime Minister will call a General Election at the beginning in May. The office of one Labour MP told MRW that this was also the schedule they were working too.

This means that there is less than six months in this session of Parliament to get through 32 bills, eight draft bills and three bills left over from the last session of Parliament that were announced in the Queens Speech. In the previous legislative timetable the year before, only 19 bills were announced and even in a year it was not possible to grant them all Royal Assent and pass them into legislation.

In a normal Parliamentary session, none of the new bills would be expected to become law.

Nine of the new bills are the responsibility of the Home Office and concern crime and antiterrorism measures. It is expected that these will be given priority by Parliamentary business managers as they are the foundations on which the Government is expected to build its general election campaign. These bills may even be rushed through before the election.

Other bills include subjects such as education, transport and economic reforms, which are all high-profile election topics.



Pressed

Even the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) admits that it will be difficult to get the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill through in the short Parliamentary session. DEFRA will be the department driving this legislation through Parliament, as well as two other bills.

A spokesman said: We are hoping to publish the bill next month and have the first reading shortly after that. But it is up to the Parliamentary business managers, the complexity of the bill and how much reading it needs in the committee stage to see whether it will become law in time.

LARAC chairman Andy Dor

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