The “prolific problem” of littering in the region has been revealed with new statistics suggesting that more than 80,000 fines for the offence have been issued in recent years.
But data analysed by The Yorkshire Post shows that over 70 per cent of local authorities in the region which are responsible for handing out fines have not increased the penalty cost as they have been able to since April.
And figures received following Freedom of Information requests to relevant councils across the county reveal a wildly different approach to enforcing offences such as littering.
The two authorities which have issued the most fines are Barnsley and Doncaster, whose councils issued 28,257 and 20,452 fixed penalty notices for littering respectively between October 2013 and 2018.
Leeds City Council handed out the third most, with more than 17,400 since 2012.
This compares to areas such as Ryedale, whose council issued no fines for littering in five years, the results show.
Since April, local authorities have been able to enforce £150 fixed penalty notices on people found to have been carrying out offences such as littering, fly-tipping and leaving dog waste.
The changes followed a public consultation in 2017, which showed nearly nine out of 10 respondents were in favour of increasing fixed penalties, according to the Government.
But in Yorkshire, only five authorities – Craven, York, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham – have bumped up their charges with 13 other relevant bodies choosing not to. Leeds has the highest number of fines for an authority which has not hiked its penalty – it charges £100, reduced to £80 if paid within 10 days of issue.
A council spokesman said that “a proactive and coherent programme of education awareness and enforcement must work side by side,” adding: “All options available to tackling litter will continue to be assessed by the council’s environmental team as part of its day-to-day monitoring work.”
And a campaigner based in one of the city’s suburbs is not convinced that penalties alone make a difference to littering.
Jeff Yates, a founder and co-ordinator of the Litter-Free Guiseley Campaign, said: “I’ve never actually thought that fines and enforcement are game-changing in respect of litter. That’s just one piece of the jigsaw. There is so much litter dropped, it’s such a prolific problem, we would need an army of people out there.”
Despite his group picking up around 200 bags of rubbish throughout each month during their Sunday sessions, he added: “You wouldn’t be able to enforce a fine system in some of the satellite towns and villages.”
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman said: “Litter blights our communities, spoils our countryside, and is a waste of taxpayers’ money to clean up, but it is up to individual councils to decide the level of their charges and to take into account local circumstances.”
The Yorkshire’s Post’s estimate of more than 80,000 littering fines over five years was achieved through Freedom of Information (FOI) responses and analysis of public data.
However, dates of fines issued vary slightly, and some data may only refer to fixed penalty notices in general and not litter fines specifically. It does not calculate the fines that have actually been paid.
Kirklees and Rotherham also reported some of the highest number of fines, with 9,402 and 7,282 issued respectively. This compares to Hull, where 781 were handed out, Wakefield, which had 360 and York, which issued only 37 fines.