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Northern Ireland’s eleven Councils spent a total of £43,285,212 on cleaning our roads, streets and open spaces in 2015-16; a rise of over 8% on spending during the previous year. This expression of serious intent to clean up our streets and parks has however been somewhat blunted by a fall of almost 20% in the number of people actually caught and fined for littering.

The figures, which were gathered by environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful from Council financial statements and records of enforcement, show how hard councils have to work to hold back a tide of unsightly and harmful litter. To put the figure in context that £43 Million would pay the annual salary of 1,995 newly qualified nurses. The total expected cost of the new build Royal Victoria Hospital Maternity Unit is £46.2 Million.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said of the figures “Council staff work day and night to keep our streets clean but we spend more and more each year just to stand still. And research shows litter costs society the same again with losses to business and tourism and our health. That’s why most councils have now come together, with others, to deliver Live Here Love Here. This is building community pride and starting work on the real solution, which is to prevent litter being dropped in the first place.”

Many people will wonder where the money for street cleansing comes from, and the answer is that councils pay it from their rates, with the average annual charge to every rate payer in the country around £58.

At the other end of the bargain, the number of people actually caught littering has dropped by almost a fifth, from 4,443 to just 3,724. In addition, just 310 people were penalised for not clearing up after their dog last year. As Dr Humphreys points out “In a fair society the polluter would pay for the clean-up, but at this rate that would mean that the penalty for dropping a crisp packet would need to be over £10,000. Most people don’t drop litter. So we need to give the people who do litter a clear signal that their dirty, selfish behaviour is not acceptable. We all have a part to play in encouraging litterers to stop.”

The total raised by fixed penalties to be set against the cost of cleansing was just £191,530, less than half of one percent of the total cost.

The difference between Councils was stark, with over half of all fixed penalties issued in Belfast, but just 1% issued in Lisburn and Castlereagh. Dr Humphreys Welcomed Belfast’s approach, saying they had “grasped the nettle of penalising litterers for the good of everybody living and working within the Council area.”

Councils are also investing in anti-litter education initiatives such as Live Here Love Here, a media campaign supported by seven of the eleven councils, the Housing Executive and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, as well as businesses like Coca-Cola and Choice Housing. Many Councils also run local initiatives directly in schools and communities.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is currently collating results of 1,100 surveys across the country to see if the additional money spent is having the desired effect and reducing the amount of litter on streets and in parks.


For more information please contact:

Chris Allen, Local Environmental Quality Co-Ordinator


028 9073 6921

Note to Editors

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is an environmental charity working towards the vision of a beautiful Northern Ireland by inspiring people to take responsibility for creating cleaner, greener and more sustainable communities.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful runs a number of awareness raising campaigns including the BIG Spring Clean volunteering and public engagement campaign, the Clean Coast programme which supports coastal volunteering groups. The charity also runs the Seaside and Green Coast Awards, the international Blue Flag (for beaches and marinas) and Eco-Schools programmes all of which set environmental quality standards.

Live Here Love Here is supported by The Department of the Environment; Tourism Northern Ireland; Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Belfast City Council; Derry City and Strabane District Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Mid and Est Antrim and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Choice Housing, the Housing Executive and Coca Cola.

Find out more about it at www.liveherelovehere.org/What-s-it-all-about.aspx

Figures used in this release

• Spending figures were collected from individual Council financial statements, which are available on Council websites

• FPN figures were provided by Councils in response to requests for the information

• A new nurse starting at band 5 on the pay scale will earn £21,692 pa. https://www.rcn.org.uk/employment-and-pay/nhs-pay-scales-2015-16

• The Royal Victoria Hospital estimated costs http://www.belfasttrust.hscni.net/pdf/1108__Annual_Report_14_to_15_final_copy_29_June2.pdf

• Cost to ratepayers based on projected figure of 744,800 households in Northern Ireland in 2015, source http://www.nisra.gov.uk/archive/demography/population/household/household_project.pdf