17/07/2019 – Three weeks after my first email.
16/07/2019 – Since my first email to the Council, nineteen days had passed, and the streets had not been cleaned once. Still, the bin persisted.
I had sent emails to more than ten councillors – my three ward councillors, the environment councillor, the lead councillor, and others. Only two had responded. Only one was still corresponding with me at this point, the environment councillor, Adam Harrison.
In an effort to appease my complaints about the area of Bloomsbury, the Council cleared just the area around where I lived – but no more. They placed a portable bin on the end of my road.
I corresponded with the Council to tell them that this was not good enough. Still, the rest of Bloomsbury lay in filth.
LITTER ABATEMENT ORDERS
On the 16th of June, I had served notice to take Camden Council to court to seek what is known as a ‘Litter Abatement Order’. This is a power granted under Section 91 of the Environmental Protection Act.
In short, if a resident is annoyed at the state of litter on their streets, they can complain to the court. If the court finds that the Council have not been keeping the streets clean enough, they serve an order which forces the Council to clear the land of litter.
At least that is how it is supposed to work. In reality, it is completely useless.
Under the law, I had to give Camden five days notice before complaining to the Magistrates’ Court, as I did. The time passed, and nothing was done.
The five day notice expired on 21/07/2019. I also happened to attend a tribunal on that day – Mr Peter Silverman v. DEFRA, another concerned citizen trying to hold authority to account over their failure to keep our country in a respectable state. That tribunal ruled in his favour. But the relevant part to this story is that he has nine years of experience in using the EPA (Environmental Protection Act) to hold bodies to account over their violation of the law. He told me many interesting things, including that it was essentially impossible to get a litter abatement order.
Why is this?
The legislation is so unknown that apparently when filing proceedings, those at the Court have often never heard of a ‘Litter Abatement Order’, despite it having been part of UK law since 1990.
Filing to take a Council to court then costs, usually around £200.
Then you have to wait, sometimes months, for the case to come to court.
To recover your initial costs, you have to prove that the land in question was littered at the time of complaint. This means taking photos of all the relevant areas just before your complaint, and just after.
Then you have to decide whether or not to actually seek a Litter Abatement Order.
If you try to seek a Litter Abatement Order and fail, the court will order you to pay the legal fees of the Council. This can be some thousands.
Now it seems like it must be relatively simple to prove, especially in my case, that the land was defaced by litter. But even if you do succeed in that, success is by no means guaranteed.
Peter told me of a story about a man living in Birmingham. He had taken Birmingham City Council to court to seek a litter abatement order, back when they changed their regulations so that they would charge for green waste removal. Every resident put out their green waste without paying, but the Council didn’t remove it. The resident took the Council to court, because as he rightly believed, even though they had told their residents not to put out their waste, because the streets had become defaced by litter, the Council by law had to remove all the waste free of charge.
However the Council never removed the waste, and managed to get all the costs pinned on the resident. How? The Council had offered the resident a ‘meeting’ at some point during the proceedings, and he had refused. The Council then proved to the court that the resident had acted unreasonably, and so his complaint was invalid. The court also ruled that the legislation could not be used for a whole constituency. As such, his case fell through, and he instantly fell into some thousands of debt.
Apparently this is not an unusual case, and that almost every case is in some way like this. The Courts are so unwilling to serve an order that is so uncommon that they will do anything to get out of it. So the only power that the people have to hold the Council to account is actually useless.
This is why the Council do not abide by the law.
The law requires Camden Council to keep the streets clear of litter, but there is no consequence for breaking that law.
Camden Council make a dirty calculation – that they can break the law, because nobody is willing to take the risk to hold the Council to account. This is why they ignored my notice. This is why the streets continue to remain filthy. They are breaking the law, because there is nobody to police this law.
This is in the midst of a £40M refurbishment project for their Town Hall, which they intend to sell off as an ‘events space’ anyway, raising even more money, and fragmenting our community even further. Think of the millions raised from the sale of the Town Hall Annexe. All of this money was raised by the community assets of Bloomsbury – but they don’t even have the decency to clean our streets. They have moved across Euston Road to the north, contributing nothing to our area, only taking the business rates and council tax, selling off our property, and not even cleaning our streets! This is unacceptable behaviour.
This is your area that the Council are destroying. Something needs to be done, and you can help.
III – What I did.