Unopposed Bill Committee Minutes of Evidence

Sections 360-379

London Local Authorities Bill [HL]

Tuesday 18 February 2003

360. CHAIRMAN: Parking is a major problem, wherever you live.

361. LORD TORDOFF: Do you have a figure for what it is at the moment?

362. MR LEWIS: I do not have a figure I am afraid.

(Mr Kerrigan) The figure for last year was about £40,000 and £38,500 in the year 2000/2001 for littering fines. That was nationally.

363. CHAIRMAN: The whole country. What was it for dog fouling?

(Mr Kerrigan) For dog fouling it was a little bit less, round £30,000.

364. CHAIRMAN: Nowadays that is completely insignificant over the whole country.

365. LORD TORDOFF: There is not a lot of enforcement going on.

366. MR LEWIS: It is fair to say that the fixed penalty regime is not being used to its full extent, no. I am reminded it is discretionary, there may be differences between boroughs and between councils as well.

367. CHAIRMAN: On the basis of those figures the vast majority of councils are doing absolutely nothing at all at the moment.

368. MR BLACKWELL: Speaking for Westminster, we do prosecute instead of issuing notices so in terms of total numbers it is far more than the figure that has been put forward.

369. CHAIRMAN: That puts a different slant on it.

370. LORD TORDOFF: Do you have any figures for prosecutions?

371. MR BLACKWELL: In Westminster off the top of my head probably something in terms of litter 40 to 50 a year. In term of dog fouling zero I think.

372. LORD TORDOFF: That puts it in context.

(Mr Jones) In answer to the question that was put to us, it is our intention to provide a financial incentive reward for local authorities to start enforcing the offences and giving out fixed penalties for leaving litter and dog mess. There are very substantial differences in the way that we are seeking to achieve that from those which are set out in the London Local Authorities Bill.

373. We are not convinced that there are significant differences between the position in London and else where and therefore because our policy conflicts with that which is outlined in the Bill we have submitted reports indicating that we do not support Clauses 26, 27, 28 and 29 and the schedule that goes with them.

374. We consider that this is an area which needs very careful consideration, my Lords, because in this case the local authorities are responsible for investigating what is taking place and then they can give out a fixed penalty.

375. One of the issues which is of interest to us in our consultation in relation to giving local authorities the power to increase the level of fixed penalty is to provide sufficient safeguards against local authorities using their powers in some ways, some sort of tax raising power, that is not our intention. This is something that we think could potentially be sensitive and needs to be considered very carefully, and that is what we are doing. We are consulting widely on the proposals.

376. In the clause which we have in the Local Government Bill there are significant differences from those set out in the London local authorities as regards how the money from fixed penalties should be spent. The explanation that was given was broadly correct in terms of the differences there in that initially in the absence of any regulation on the subject matter the local authorities will only be able to use their fixed penalties to finance their statutory litter and dog fouling functions. We also have the power to make regulations which can add to those functions so that local authorities can spend their receipts from fixed penalties more widely.

377. We envisage that high performing local authorities will be given more scope in which to spend their fixed penalty receipts than other local authorities. We envisage if the poor performers are given some additional areas in which they may finance using fixed penalty receipts they will be related to improving their local environment.

378. One of the thoughts which occurred to us in relation to the London Local Authority Bill is that it talks about improving the amenity of the area, which to us does not exclusively mean environmental matters, it may be that expression may be interpreted more widely than matters which are, in our view, similar to litter and dog mess. It could be said that providing recreational facilities could improve the amenity of the area.

379. If local authorities are given the power, which is set out in the local authorities, to spend their money they will be able to spend it very widely in a way we envisage that will provide certainly more clarity as to how local authorities should be able to spend their money. For that reason we are not happy with that element of the Bill.

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