Private litter enforcement company Waste Investigations Support & Enforcement (WISE) once again came under fire at the December meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Environmental Services Committee.
Councillor John McAuley has been vocal about the firm’s tactics of mainly targeting the littering of cigarette butts, saying that ‘councillors’ wishes were being ignored’ and the firm ‘had done a runner on us’.
A report had been brought before the committee giving a breakdown of fines handed out by WISE with 54.22% of the fines issued for littering cigarette butt (893 fines), 13.36 for littering rolled up cigarette (220 fines) and only 1.52% for dog fouling (25 fines).
The DUP councillor said: “I’m getting bored of raising the same things and I don’t see anything changing because the company has no interest in changing anything.
“The time we did get to meet them it was said the next meeting would be held in January to which we said no, that it was not acceptable and there was to be a meeting organised prior to that even if it was on Zoom.
“We have not heard anything, they have basically done a runner on us and carried on with their business as they pleased.”
Director of Environmental Services, Aidan McPeake responded to the councillor: “We have a meeting pencilled in for January 6 but I can try and pull that forward if members want to do it before Christmas.”
Cllr McAuley told the director ‘there’s not much point doing it now’ adding: “It was agreed that night of the meeting that it needed to be held earlier so why was it pencilled in for January 6 when the working group asked for it to be earlier.
“There’s no point trying to pencil it in a week before Christmas. The councillors’ wishes have just been ignored.”
Mr McPeake offered to try and fast track the meeting to be told by Cllr McAuley: “We went three months without seeing them, there’s no point trying to squeeze it in with only a week to go.
“That night the working group met them, it was to be every month, even if it was on Zoom and then quarterly every month. It’s as if we let them go away and said ‘do what you please’.
“Nothing has changed, they are still targeting the smokers, the big money maker. It’s concerning but not surprising that somebody applied for a job with them and they were told their primary focus is cigarette butts. The person asked what about dog fouling etc and the response was ‘let the council worry about that.’
“That just reaffirms the position that a few of us have taken. The majority have seemed willing to just accept and let them raise their money.
“The figures show £89,000 in fines for cigarettes. You would hardly give it up yourself.”
Chair of the committee, UUP Councillor Darryl Wilson informed Cllr McAuley that figures also show that cigarette butts are also the biggest form of litter in Northern Ireland to which the Causeway councillor responded: “They might be but if you asked the public do they notice the difference in our streets and roads I could guarantee that they would say no.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Bateson echoed Cllr McAuley’s sentiments adding: “Having chatted to a few constituents they are going after a quick buck and they are hovering around car parks and waiting people coming out of shops instead of going full frontal and handling heavy duty litter and dog fouling.
“They do seem to be concentrating on the four major towns of the borough and neglecting others and rural areas.”