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'Envirocrime' Snoops Paid to Sift Through Your Garbage

UK Daily Mail | April 22, 2007 
DANIEL BOFFEY

A council is paying plain-clothes snoopers £30,000 a year to track down homeowners who put their rubbish out at the wrong time of the week or in the wrong place.
The 'envirocrime' officers are employed to enforce environmental regulations and have the power to fine residents who 'offend'.

Ealing Council in West London is spending nearly £150,000 on recruiting and employing four new enforcement patrollers to add to its 23-strong team that already monitors 'waste disposal' regulations.

The same council attracted controversy last month when it was revealed it had drawn up plans to use hidden CCTV to catch fly-tippers.

Of more than a dozen councils levying fines since the introduction of legislation a year ago enabling local authorities to pursue residents, Ealing charges what it calls 'envirocriminals' the most, with a £110 penalty notice.

Now, the revelation that £35,500 is being spent on each 'envirocrime' officer in Ealing will enrage both low-paid public-sector workers and those who believe councils are taking a heavy-handed approach to rubbish collection.

Neil Dhot, head of communications at Ealing Council, refused to say how much of the £142,000 spent on the officers was made up of their wages, claiming recruitment costs were included in the sum.

Yet a newly qualified nurse is paid just £19,166, a midwife £31,004 and an Army lieutenant £27,762.

Christine Melsom, founder of IsItfair, which campaigns for council-tax reform, said: "They are being heavy-handed. We are living in a world where everything we do is watched and regulated. George Orwell has arrived. If you go to work early it is difficult to get it right with the rubbish."

Fixed penalties totalling more than £185,000 have been issued this year nationally to people who put their rubbish out for binmen too early.

According to facts released under the Freedom Of Information Act, Birmingham issued the most with 592 penalty notices for envirocrimes in the past 12 months, Kensington and Chelsea 365 and Cardiff 264. Ealing issued just 11 - but its charge was the highest, equal with Medway.

A spokesman for Ealing Council said the officers were not just focused on homeowners but were employed 'to monitor and enforce legislation affecting the borough's streets, including fly-tipping, waste disposal, illegal street trading, graffiti and various Highways Act offences."

He added: "We aim to educate residents before the last resort of issuing fines. If people do not act on warnings we have the power to issue penalty notices. The fine is £110 but if it is paid within ten days it will be reduced to £60."

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