Litter louts walk free in West Dunbartonshire
Thousands of taxpayers’ cash is spent by West Dunbartonshire on anti-litter campaigns – but none of the louts is ever made to pay a fine. Top picture is of the state of Lomond Industrial Estate in Alexandria. Litter pictures by Bill Heaney
By Ally Tibbitt and Jamie Mann, investigative journalists
People issued with fines for dropping litter or allow their pets to foul the streets and open spaces in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll, which include the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, faced no chance of being referred to the courts if they simply refused to pay.
These two local councils are 25 per cent of the eight councils named and shamed this morning by The Ferret investigative journalism bureau.
West Dunbartonshire, of course, refuses to discuss the issue with The Democrat or say what they are going to do about it.
Across the country, Scottish local authorities issued more than 42,261 tickets for litter over three years. However, data released under freedom of information law suggests that fewer than half of these tickets, which carry an £80 fine, were paid.
Of those unpaid tickets, just 756, or 13 per cent, were referred to the courts for further enforcement, meaning that at least 2,092 people were let-off without paying their fine.
The Scottish Conservatives said that council efforts to crack down on littering were “pointless” without “proper enforcement” such as fines and prosecutions.
But they too, although they have been invited to comment from time to time, remain silent when it comes to commenting to The Democrat.
Their two councillors, Sally Paige (Balloch) and Brian Walker (Dumbarton) help to prop up the SNP administration in West Dunbartonshire.
People referred to the courts for failing to pay a fixed penalty notice could receive a fine of up to £2,500 and a criminal record, if found guilty.
Dealing with litter and fly-tipping is said to cost tax-payers £53 million per year. But in eight council areas, not one unpaid ticket was referred to the procurator fiscal.
In North Lanarkshire, the council with the largest number of unpaid tickets, officers issued 1,980 litter fines over three years but only 888 were subsequently paid.
Not a single one of the remaining 1,092 unpaid tickets were referred to the courts. The council did not refer unpaid tickets for dog-fouling and fly-tipping to the courts either.
Elsewhere, Argyll and Bute, East Lothian, Falkirk, Highland, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Dunbartonshire councils all failed to make referrals for unpaid litter tickets to the procurator fiscal. Between them they administer an area of land larger than Belgium.
East Lothian Council issued one litter fine in three years. It was not paid, and the recipient was not referred to the procurator fiscal.
The Ferret investigation found that Scottish councils took no action on 2,092 unpaid litter tickets over three years, but these figures do not include Scotland’s largest city.
The Democrat asked around but no one we spoke to had ever seen a litter warden – nor recently any traffic wardens – operating in the Dumbarton or Helensburgh area.
Glasgow City Council issued the largest number of fixed penalty tickets in the country by some margin. It issued 36,380 tickets over three years, but just 46 per cent were paid.
The council has refused to reveal what proportion of the 19,608 unpaid tickets it issued were referred to the procurator fiscal.
The Scottish Information Commissioner is currently investigating.