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Councils are becoming dependent on fines for revenue, says report
22 August 2022, 15:20
Councils are increasingly reliant on income from issuing fines in order to provide funding for core services, according to a report by campaign group Manifesto Club.
The Corruption of Punishment 2022 report found that: “With budget pressures, many councils are becoming dependent on fining as a source of income for funding core services, departmental salaries, or special projects.”
Freedom of Information requests were sent to councils asking what they did with the cash raised by fines.
At least one council admitted that the money was being used to “support core services within the department, due to reduced funding central funding from government.
In 2018, cross-party group London Councils predicted that in the decade running 2010 to 2020, London local government would have lost 63% of its core funding from central government in real terms.
The Corruption of Punishment report also found that nine in ten councils were employing private police forces to issue fines, and were paying them per fine issued – despite a government ban forbidding the practice.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Josie Appleton, Director of the Manifesto Club said: “Fining for profit distorts the enforcement system, which is guided not by justice or proportionality, or the aim of clean streets, but by a desire to issue as many penalties as possible.”
“This leads to the harassment and intimidation of members of the public by enforcement officers, as well as the punishment of trivial or non- existent offences.”
Steve Double, a Defra Minister, issued a warning on Saturday that councils should not “abuse the power” to raise money.
“We have provided guidance to councils on litter enforcement and are crystal clear that any council that outsources it must make sure their contractors follow the rules.”
In the last financial year, 44 councils earned a total of £4,148,887 in revenue from fines.
Out of 53 councils that released details of their financial dealings, 47 pay private fine enforcers on the basis that they can earn more money by issuing more fines.
Enforcement officers have been accused of hiding in bushes, following people to see if they drop things and even pretending to be real policemen in order to pressure people into paying fines.
One complaint about a fine alleged that a penalty was issued for putting a carton on the floor whilst loading shopping into the boot, and another dropping a thread from a glove.