Nearly 10,000 fines for breaches of “petty” council orders were issued in England and Wales in 2018, with a quarter of those in Peterborough alone.
Campaign group the Manifesto Club has called for the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) to be scrapped.
Councils can bring in PSPOs to ban activities such as begging, nuisance drinking and even unauthorised cycling.
The Local Government Association said PSPOs were one way to “tackle anti-social behaviour”.
About 60% of the 9,930 fines were issued by just four councils – Peterborough (2,430), Bedford (1,489), Hillingdon (1,125) and Waltham Forest (966) – which all use private companies to issue the fines.
People who do not comply with the orders can be required to pay a £100 fixed penalty.
Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer for human rights charity Liberty, said she was concerned some wardens were “acting with incentives to issue as many fines as possible”.
Peterborough, which uses the private firm Kingdom Services Group to collect fines, issued 1,533 for “unauthorised cycling” in 2018, 861 for spitting, and 13 for “failure to disperse”.
A Peterborough City Council spokesman said: “The reason Peterborough has more fines is because the PSPO areas cover a larger number of offences, including cycling, littering and spitting.”
What’s been banned?
The Manifesto Club study found:
- Slough has banned possession of a slingshot, while Pendle introduced a curfew for under-16s
- Colchester council fined four people for putting up an A-frame
- Kirklees in West Yorkshire has outlawed fireworks and sky lanterns
- Three Rivers council, in Hertfordshire, issued 20 fines for school drop-offs
- Several councils including Derby, Newcastle, Poole, and Barking and Dagenham, issued fines for begging.
The Manifesto Club, which uncovered the figures through a Freedom of Information Request, criticised the 420% increase in fines since 2016, when there were only 1,906 issued in England and Wales.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tim Clement-Jones said: “The shocking rise in petty PSPOs and fines means that thousands of people are being punished for entirely innocuous actions.”
An LGA spokesman said: “PSPOs are one of a number of ways councils can tackle anti-social behaviour problem.
“PSPOs will not be suitable or effective in all circumstances, and councils will consider other approaches which may better resolve the anti-social behaviour identified.”
A Home Office spokesman added: “We are clear PSPOs should be used proportionately to tackle anti-social behaviour.”