Anti-litter firm WISE defends its operations amid claims its £80 fines are overwhelmingly for cigarette butts

An anti-littering firm has defended its wardens, after questions were raised about their operations in a second council area.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 19th September 2021, 10:51 am

The firm - called Waste Investigations Support & Enforcement (WISE) - has wardens in three council zones: Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim, and Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (plus some on the UK mainland).

Its performance was savaged during a Causeway Coast and Glens council meeting on Tuesday, where DUP man John McAuley complained that its wardens are almost entirely targeting smokers.

He said WISE enforcers “sneak about car parks, jump out, hit someone with a fine for dropping a cigarette butt... it’s an easy hit” - whilst more serious problems like fast-food litter and dog fouling were not prioritised.

There are usually four or five WISE wardens working in the borough, seven days a week.

The fines they dole out come to £80 apiece, and the revenue gets shared between the council and WISE.

In all, 749 fines were issued in Causeway Coast and Glens during August, of which councillor McAuley said 600-or-so were for cigarette butts.

He believes the situation is similar in Mid and East Antrim too.

Now that latter council has told the News Letter: “[We] confirm that a small number of complaints were received at the commencement of the pilot in April 2021, with the frequency of any complaints having decreased as the pilot progressed.

“Although the majority have been challenges against the service of a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), a very small number have raised concerns around targeting smokers.

“Upon investigation, to include viewing of officer worn body camera footage, none of the complaints received by Council to date have been upheld.”

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s press office refused to divulge any details of its financial arrangement with WISE.

Independent Mid and East Antrim councillor Rodney Quigley said that, based on the statistics above, “there needs to be a serious re-think of how these litter wardens are conducting their business - to me, it’s not in the spirit of why they were employed”.

WISE itself has told the News Letter said its patrols are a response to complaints from public and councillors alike, adding: “Our officers are equipped with body worn camera technology which is activated when speaking with any member of the public and during the issuance of a fixed penalty notice.

“A fixed penalty notice is issued based on an officer clearly observing a member of the public dropping and leaving litter in a place which is open to the air.

“Any appeals arising from the issuance of a fixed penalty notice must be made in writing either online at www.noticepayments.co.uk/fpnrep/ccg or by emailing [email protected]

“All representations submitted in writing will be reviewed by checking the issuing officers body worn camera footage and all associated evidence.

“These details are clearly printed on every issued fixed penalty notice.

“If the representation is declined the alleged offender will be given the opportunity to formally appeal the FPN at court.”

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