Litter wardens dish out just seven fines each in 12 months

EDINBURGH'S 32-strong team of litter meanies have come under fire after it emerged they dish out an average of just seven fines each every year.

Latest figures show the environmental wardens each issued just one fine every three months for dog fouling, despite widespread complaints about the problem.

The wardens cost the council around 600,000 per year but make less than three per cent of that money back from issuing the 50 fixed penalty notices.

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Edinburgh's performance is in stark contrast to Glasgow, where more than 11,000 fines have been issued by the city's 50-strong squad of litter wardens since a high-publicity campaign was launched in February 2007.

Although they deal with other issues such as fly-posting and trade waste, dishing out penalties for litter and dog fouling was the main reason for Edinburgh introducing wardens in 2001.

Council chiefs today said the number of fines was going down because the city's streets were getting cleaner, and warden patrols were acting as a deterrent.

But this was shot down by opposition politicians, who questioned the effectiveness of the wardens.

Councillor Maureen Child, the city's Labour environment spokeswoman, said: "This is concerning because I am not seeing any less litter or dog mess on the streets, so we need to know why the fines are going down.

"The council needs to be cracking down on the persistent offenders who are likely to be behind the bulk of the problems in Edinburgh."

The overall number of fines issued has been in decline in Edinburgh for years, with the total number falling from 2042 in 2005-06 to 1657 in 2006-07. Littering fines still account for less than half of all fixed penalty notices, despite the introduction of the smoking ban which was expected to see offences rocket.

Councillor Iain Whyte, the city's Tory leader, said: "I know the council has produced these scores which show the city is generally getting cleaner, but this doesn't seem to be borne out by people's experiences. Certainly not, judging by the letters page of the Evening News.

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"We have a particular problem with cigarette litter outside pubs, for example, and it is persistent problems like this which should be cracked down on.

"You obviously can't have targets for the wardens, but there is definitely scope for having a more targeted approach to persistent offenders as the number of fines does seem low."

In December last year, the city received its best annual cleanliness rating from independent inspectors Keep Scotland Beautiful. Inspectors awarded Edinburgh the highest annual average since monitoring began in 2000.

Councillor Paul Edie, the city's community safety leader, said: "It hasn't been necessary to issue as many fixed penalty notices as we once did because happily there have been fewer offences to merit them.

"Our deliberate emphasis on proactive, preventative patrols is making a real difference in cutting the number of environmental and antisocial behaviour offences across the city. Night-time patrols are also proving effective in combating the dropping of fast food and cigarette litter in particular.