Barnet Council has agreed to review its penalties for fly-tipping after people were fined up to £400 for leaving out their recycling.

Members of the council’s environment committee last week (Thursday, September 13) agreed to look into cutting the fixed penalty notice (FPN) for first-time offenders.

It follows complaints from members of the public who were slapped with fines after leaving items such as cardboard boxes next to their blue bins due to a lack of space.

Labour member for Woodhouse Geof Cook, who raised the issue in a member’s item, expressed concerns about the terms of the council’s deal with contractor NSL, which issues the fines for fly-tipping.

He said it offered incentives for the private firm to crack down on ordinary people rather than going after serious offenders.

Cllr Cook said: “This is not the way to treat our residents and specifically those trying to participate in a recycling scheme.

“There are perverse incentives for NSL. They seem to have an incentive to put resources into patrolling those roads that have a blue bin collection and early in the morning, so any infractions are picked up and fined before the recycling collection people arrive.”

Conservative member for Childs Hill Peter Zinkin said: “I agree a £400 fine is not proportionate – we need to do something different. I think we need to ask officers to bring in a lower amount for a first offence.”

Cllr Cooke also complained that there was no formal appeals process, meaning people either had to pay the fine or take their case to court and risk getting a criminal record.

Committee chairman and Conservative member for Golders Green Cllr Dean Cohen said that there was an “informal” appeals process run by ward councillors, who can ask council officers to investigate FPNs following complaints from members of the public.

He said this process had led to some fines being dropped.

Cllr Cooke asked for a retrospective review of cases so that previously issued penalties could be downgraded and people given refunds.

Councillors voted unanimously to review the fines and explore the legal options for cutting FPNs that had already been issued to residents.