Spending cuts 'may worsen litter problem'

England's litter problem has not improved in the past year and may get worse as public spending cuts bite, a report suggested today.

A survey by Keep Britain Tidy found sweet wrappers, drinks, fast food

and smoking-related rubbish had all increased in the last 12 months.

It found eight out of 10 places are blighted with cigarette butts - an increase of 5%.

Almost all retail sites surveyed as part of the annual Local Environment Quality Survey for England (LEQSE) also had evidence of cigarette littering, while graffiti in main retail areas was at its worst level since the surveys began.

Keep Britain Tidy said year on year data showed a trend of worsening dog fouling in the winter months and chewing gum stains had also risen by 4%.

The report suggested the rise in littering could be linked to public spending cuts.

Its executive summary said: "Local environmental quality standards overall are being maintained in England, which is promising in a field that has undoubtedly seen some cuts and efficiency savings already over the past year.

"There is evidence of some standards dropping in a few instances, and it will be interesting to investigate correlations in these areas against issues highlighted by the public as less important, to see if cleansing or spending decisions are being affected noticeably by local prioritisation in coming years."

A spokeswoman added: "We know that for a lot of people, local environment quality is very important to them and 858 million was what it cost last year to clean England's streets.

"We are spending an astronomical amount of money on it and if that was to reduce considerably, it could lead to worsening litter."

According to the survey, the South East and the South West were the

joint top performing regions.

It said alcohol-related litter had dropped by 3%.

Keep Britain Tidy, which produced the report for Defra, joined with

partners to launch an anti-littering message.

Today's National Litter Convention calls on the public to "Love Where You Live" and tackle the growing litter problem.

Environment Minister Lord Henley said: "People care deeply about the appearance of their local environment and for many people litter is the biggest problem affecting their neighbourhood.

"The LEQSE report shows that more needs to be done to tackle this problem. Today's convention and the new 'Love Where You Live' message show that everyone involved is serious about taking action."

Defra, Keep Britain Tidy and the Litter Challenge Group, which includes

some of the biggest food and tobacco firms have joined forces to back the message and campaign to reach the Government's aim of a cleaner England by 2020.

Keep Britain Tidy's ambassador, TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp, said: "Being part of Love Where You Live is a chance for the big brands to become the heroes instead of the villains in the fight against litter.

"Those who mindlessly chuck their fast food or cigarette butt on the floor cost our country millions and destroy the places we call home.

"Today is a landmark moment, as big business joins forces with councils and many other organisations to make a stand. With the right support, this new brand could bring back a sense of pride to where we live."

* The Litter Challenge Group includes Defra, Keep Britain Tidy, Local Government Regulation, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Wrigley, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, Network Rail, Highways Agency, Durham County Council, Knowsley Council, Gallions Housing Association, Wakefield and District housing, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Greggs and the British Plastic Federation.

end 160246 DEC 10

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