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Council spending on street cleaning reaches record levels

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

NEWRY, Mourne and Down Council spent a total of 3,350,344 on cleaning our roads, streets and open spaces in 2015-16, according to Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful - a rise of 6% on last year.

However, what they describe as an "expression of serious intent to clean up our streets and parks" has however been somewhat blunted by a fall of almost 7% in the number of people actually caught and fined for littering.

The figures, which were gathered by environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful from Council financial statements and records of enforcement, show how hard councils have to work to hold back a tide of unsightly and harmful litter.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said of the figures "Council staff work day and night to keep our streets clean but we spend more and more each year just to stand still.

“If Newry, Mourne and Down was able to bring down the 3,350,344 cost of cleaning up litter, think of how many more parks, leisure facilities and services the council would be able to provide to the public. Tackling the cost of litter is not just good for the environment, society but also public services.

“This cost is why most councils have now come together, with others, to deliver Live Here Love Here. This is building community pride and starting work on the real solution, which is to prevent litter being dropped in the first place."

Many people will wonder where the money for street cleansing comes from, and the answer is that councils pay it from their rates, with the average annual charge to every rate payer in the country around 58.

At the other end of the bargain, the number of people actually caught littering has fallen by 7% to 115. As Dr Humphreys points out "In a fair society the polluter would pay for the clean-up, but at this stage the ratepayers of Newry, Mourne and Down are footing the bill for other peoples' carelessness."

The total raised by fixed penalties to be set against the cost of cleansing was 5,150.

Councils are also investing in anti-litter education initiatives such as Live Here Love Here, a media campaign supported by seven of the eleven councils including Newry, Mourne and Down, the Housing Executive and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, as well as businesses like Coca-Cola and Choice Housing. Many Councils also run local initiatives directly in schools and communities.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is currently collating results of 1,100 surveys across the country to see if the additional money spent is having the desired effect and reducing the amount of litter on streets and in parks.

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