In April, the ombudsman told Haringey to amend a policy which saw waste left outside an allocated time slot counted as fly-tipping. Residents could be issued a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for as much as £400.
The council was also told to identify anyone issued an FPN in the past year, refund any fines that had been paid and cancel those that were outstanding.
Having now amended the policy, Haringey council is to refund or cancel 191 fines totalling £42,920.
Haringey residents who live in flats above shops or businesses which receive commercial waste collections do not have wheelie bins. Instead, they leave their waste outside during twice-daily one-hour slots.
Those fined had no formal grounds of appeal and had to pay within 14 days. Otherwise, they could be taken to court and issued a £2,500 penalty.
A resident known only as ‘Ms X’ complained to the ombudsman after she received a fine for leaving out bags of waste 35 minutes early.
In their decision, the ombudsman said: “It is not proportionate or in the spirit of the government guidance to treat rubbish left out 35 minutes early as fly-tipping, which is a criminal offence.
“This means there is fault in the way the council’s policy has been written and any decision making that relies on it is flawed.”
A Haringey council spokesperson told letsrecycle.com that the local authority “immediately amended” the policy following the ombudsman’s decision and have stopped issuing £400 fines for waste presented outside of the timed collection period.
Those [fines] that had already been issued have now all been cancelled and refunded
- Haringey council spokesperson
“Those that had already been issued have now all been cancelled and refunded, including the resident in question who we contacted to offer our apologies and £100 compensation,” they said.
“The enforcement policy and practices, that were put in place as an important step in keeping our streets clean and free of rubbish to prevent issues for the wider community, have now been amended as per the ombudsman’s guidance, and we are issuing warnings before any enforcement action is taken for waste that is put out before the timed collection period.”
The Local Government Ombudsman suggested Haringey’s policy relied on two separate sections of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, one of which concerned FPNs and the other fly-tipping.
The ombudsman pointed to government guidance on FPNs published in 2018 which states that councils cannot issue fixed penalties for “minor problems” such as forgetting to close bin lids or leaving bins out for a few hours before a collection.
While noting that Haringey’s policy was not against the law, the ombudsman noted in their decision that councils should “act proportionately, appropriately and fairly”.
The ombudsman told Haringey to write Ms X an apology for “incorrectly” issuing her with an FPN and to confirm it had cancelled her fine.
Haringey was also told to pay Ms X £100 for the “distress and uncertainty” caused.
In response, Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison, leader of borough’s Liberal Democrats, accused the Labour Party-controlled council of treating residents “as a resource” and “forgetting that these are the people it exists to serve”.
“There is no common sense being applied here when residents and businesses act in good faith to help keep our streets clean,” he added.
“Meanwhile we routinely see waste left out for hours and sometimes days when Veolia fails to carry out a collection, seemingly with impunity.
“It is good to see that this wrong-headed policy is being changed, and those fined under it having their money returned, but this should never have been necessary.”
Representing an estimated population of more than 270,000, the London borough of Haringey had a household waste recycling rate of 31% in the 2020/21 financial year.
Veolia has provided street cleansing, recycling and waste management services for Haringey residents since 2011 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Since 2012, all kerbside properties have received a fortnightly collection of residual waste. Veolia collects recycling, food waste and garden waste weekly.