We have been contacted by a Camden pensioner who was slapped with a fine for ‘fly tipping’, after she swept part of her street and put the litter in a bin over the road.
Her street was filthy and had not been cleaned for a week. She swept up the street litter – largely cigarette butts and sweet wrappers – from outside her house and the house of her elderly neighbour, and put the half carrier bag of rubbish in the bins over the road.
As a reward for her efforts, Camden Council sent her a bill for £400 pounds, and a threatening letter saying that if she did not pay it she would be taken to court. As ‘evidence’ the council included what she called ‘Stasi-like’ photographs of her – showing her standing in the street, and then a close up of her tipping the street litter in the bin.
Camden Council employs the private security company Kingdom Security to issue fines for littering and fly tipping, so it is likely that the photos were taken and fines issued by the company. Our data shows that, in 2021-2, Camden Council earned over £56,000 for these privately issued fines, while the company took nearly £40,000.
Yet Camden Council is taking full responsibility for the penalty and refused to listen to the lady’s explanations (that she had believed that street litter could be placed in any of the bins in the road). It treated what was a minor and well-intentioned error as a serious criminal offence. A Camden Council employee said:
It is great that you are cleaning the area outside your premises to ensure that the Local Environment Quality remains clean and presentable, however the other part of your action is an illegal activity and you should refrain from placing rubbish, waste, or any other items in other people’s bins.
When she met with a senior council official to discuss the matter, he said that if she wanted to take the issue further they had more evidence against her, and she would receive more fines. He did not state what this evidence was or what the fines would be for.
The lady has paid the fine, but she is furious as she does not consider that she has committed a criminal offence. She points out that if she had left rubbish in the road, or swept it into the gutter, she would not have been penalised. She believes that she was criminalised for trying to do a good deed. She says:
This is all very intimidating for a pensioner and I wanted you to know the bullish attitude that Camden have adopted towards its residents.
Unfortunately, Camden Council officials are not the only ones treating their residents in this manner. Nor is this the only council misusing large ‘fly tipping’ penalties to punish residents for minor mistakes with bin litter.
Camden councillors and residents need to bring this bullying conduct to account.