University students and staff have slammed an Oxford City Council decision to issue £100 penalties for breaking new rubbish collection rules.
Seven fines have been issued for "side littering", where household rubbish encroaches on the pavement in front of a house. The new scheme affects the properties of many staff and students who live in houses across Oxford, but has been criticised for failing to inform residents of the consequences of breaking its new regulations.
A senior member of University staff, who wished to remain anonymous, said the system was fundamentally unfair. "It’s a draconian and aggressive attitude that the Council have adopted. Of course I’m against the fines. Oxford County Council has failed to educate the public, and now they’re punishing them for it. It’s privative government," she said.
She called for the University to take action on behalf of students affected by the scheme. "There’s no protection for the students. As soon as you step out of the colleges you’re in a cesspit of political manipulation," she said. "The students’ parents can’t help them, and the moment that they put a foot wrong, the Council come down on them."
Tom Smith, a second-year student who lives in Jericho, criticised the conflict between the new scheme and the recently introduced fortnightly bin collections. "With the ridiculous bi-weekly collections, in a house which contains six male students, we naturally generated a lot of rubbish which we had put in front of our house as usual," he said.
"We then got a letter threatening us with legal action if we didn’t comply, and a photograph of our house with the rubbish in front of it. We keep our rubbish at the back of our house, but now it’s taking up our garden space."
City Councillor Jean Fooks claimed that the ‘three strikes’ scheme had been effective in deterring offenders. "After the first inspection, the officers sent out 1,200 letters, then the second time only 200 letters were sent out, but just seven fines were issued in the end, which shows that the warning system worked and made people a little more diligent," she said.
Annie Skinner, co-founder of CROW, a pressure group campaigning for a return to weekly household waste collections, said that provisions for waste disposal were not satisfactory and the problem was worst for properties that didn’t have wheelie bins. "4,500 households are unable to have wheelie bins, for example houses without front gardens," she said. "These households are allocated two refuse sacks a week and are often houses of multiple occupation. Despite diligent recycling, for many, particularly for those in shared houses who have different schedules, two sacks are not enough. The rubbish has to be stored somewhere – inside the house, in the back garden if there is one, or in the street."
Eric Murray, another co-founder of CROW, added, "It’s hypocritical, it really is."