“We have a zero-tolerance approach, and anyone found breaking the law with be fined.” That’s from Bedford Borough Council‘s Cllr. Charles Royden, the Portfolio Holder for Highways, Transport and the Environment in an exclusive interview with The Bedford Independent.
The fines handed out to people caught littering and cycling in the town centre have caused controversy in recent weeks, with claims that the fines are unfair, the enforcement officers are too heavy handed, and awareness of the rules isn’t widespread enough.
Cllr Royden maintains they’re a vital necessity if Bedford is going to be clean, tidy and safe for everyone: “We consulted with residents in 2016 and 79% of people responding said that they wanted us to create a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).
“This order gives local authority powers to fine anyone breaking rules in that area, this includes cycling and littering, and local businesses tell us its working with less people riding their bikes dangerously though town and bins being filled with rubbish much more quickly.”
The biggest concern for many Bedfordians is the subject of targets, with many claiming that these fines are being issued just to make up the numbers. Bedford Borough Council maintain that the three Bedford Borough Council Enforcement Officers working alongside four Kingdom Enforcement Officers do not have targets.
Heavy handedness of the enforcement officers was also played down by Cllr Royden. “Our council staff are just normal people like you and I, they get some incredible abuse for simply doing their job.
“If any of them are found to be too heavy handed they will be dealt with, and none of them are above the law. If you aren’t happy with how an enforcement officer has behaved, then tell us.
“We don’t want to be Draconian, but we must stop anti-social behaviour like this.”
One council enforcement officer was recently fired after breaking littering laws himself and was also fined.
Bedford Borough Council told the Bedford Independent that since April 2018 they have issued fines worth over £160,000 for littering, cycling and dog control across the borough, with this money going to cover the cost of staff, admin and processing, any prosecution and legal work that may be necessary and education campaigns.
Cllr Royden says there isn’t a large amount of money coming into the council from these fines, but it could be a lot more. Legislation from Westminster gives local authorities power to impose a fine of up to £150 for breaking a PSPO. In Bedford littering will get you a fine of £100, cycling £75.
Here are the facts:
- Anyone caught cycling through the main pedestrian area of Bedford Town Centre between designated times will be issued with a fixed penalty notice (FPN). Both authorised Local Authority and Police Officers can enforce the restriction.
- Anyone caught littering or witnessed carrying out any other enviro-crime will be will be issued with an FPN
- Anyone who receives a fine for not following cycling or dog control orders has 14 days to appeal. In the case of littering if they haven’t paid or appealed within 14 days the fine increases to £100. If an appeal is received within the time allowed, the council will stop the clock on this period of time. If the council disagrees with the appeal you will have the remaining period of time left to pay the fine once the response is sent back, or you can opt to take your appeal to be heard in court
- Anyone who is approached by an enforcement officer should provide their name and address. The offender can be fined an additional amount on top of the FPN, if they refuse to give their details, or provide false details. The enforcement officer can call on assistance from the Police in the following cases: The offender refuses to give their details, the enforcement officer suspects the offender has given false details
- A Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) proposes to deal with a particular nuisance in a particular area that is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the local community. It can prohibit certain things or require specific things to be done. A PSPO can last no longer than three years but can be renewed if necessary
- Bedford Borough Council do not set upper or lower targets for the number of FPNs issued.
- Fines from FPN pay for the enforcement of the PSPO. A £75 fine will be shared as follows: £42.50 to frontline enforcement resources (this may be a Kingdom or Council enforcement officer), £25 to cover legal overheads and file preparation for any unpaid cases, £7.50 for education and environmental improvements.
We will continue to speak to Bedford Borough Council about the PSPO and the issuing of FPNs when necessary.