13 April 2018 by Joshua Doherty

Defra emphasises ‘proportionate enforcement’ for bin breaches

Defra has launched a consultation to incorporate guidance on the proportionate and effective use of fixed penalties (civil and criminal) against littering and waste offences.

The consultation document explained that negative media coverage of litter enforcement strategies, such as the recent Panorama programme, Inside the Litter Police, has led to “many public misconceptions” about enforcement activity against littering and related offences.

Therefore, the document outlined that fixed penalty notices or civil penalty notices “should only be issued when it is proportionate and in the public interest to do so”.

“Our policy is clear that under no circumstances should councils view the use of fixed penalties for these offences as a means to generate income,” the document added.

bins open

Issuing penalty notices for bin offences, must be issued proportionately, says Defra

The consultation comes a year after Defra promised to issue guidance on enforcement in its Litter Strategy.

Proportionate measures

Defra explained in the document that the proposed guidance is to help local councils implement a “proportionate and responsible approach to enforcement”. The word proportionate was mentioned 21 times in the 35 page document.

The guidance emphasised the proportionate enforcement is needed, so that fixed penalties operate “as an effective deterrent and retain the support of the wider public”.

The consultation explains that it will be of interest to local authorities in England, particularly district councils and unitary authorities, National Park Authorities and English parish or community councils.

With regards to using a third party enforcement service, local authorities were also warned that an approach not based on targets on the overall number of should be used, as this guidance undermines public confidence.

Among the other points outlined is that action should be used to “influence the behaviour of those against whom enforcement action is taken”, with proportionate enforcement  able to deter others from committing offences which cause damage to local environmental quality.

Existing guidance

Existing guidance is available to councils around using litter fines,  however this doesn’t mention proportionate once.

The updated guidance reflects the final Regulations as approved by Parliament, and will aim to make more the system user friendly for councils as it pulls the guidance together in one place. Participants have just over eight weeks to respond to the consultation, which closes on Friday 8 June.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Councils should continue to use the existing guidance on the use of fixed penalties for littering until it is replaced, and apply the same principles to the use of penalties for littering from vehicles as they would other similar penalties such as civil parking enforcement.”


The following questions are asked in the consultation:

1 Are any aspects of the guidance unclear? (Please identify relevant paragraph numbers, and suggest how it could be clarified.)
2 What changes, if any, will you need to make to existing practices in order to comply with the new guidance?
3 What do you estimate would be the costs of making any changes in order to comply with the guidance?
4 Do you foresee any savings attributable to compliance with the guidance?

Useful links:
Consultation document regarding proportionate enforcement


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