REVEALED: Pocket ashtrays in ‘Bid to reduce smoking litter’ cost taxpayer over £1k

In a bid to stop people dropping their cigarette butts on the ground, Kingston Council handed out free personal pocket ashtrays to smokers in Kingston Town Centre on Thursday 8 October, and in New Malden, Surbiton and Tolworth on Thursday 15th October.

The move was part of the Council’s ‘Cleaner Kingston’ campaign to encourage residents to, as the Council describe it, “Do their bit to help carry the borough from clean to pristine.”

Following a Freedom of Information request made by Coombe Monthly, we can reveal that the production of these ashtrays cost Kingston Council £1355 for 1000 of these ashtrays, working out to a shocking £1.35 per ashtray.

Local resident Debbie Davenport said:

“Yep, I’m a smoker. But I didn’t ask for special ashtrays paid for by the council – just adequate places to dispose of my cigarette butts, the same as people need adequate places to dump their food wraps and other litter. If there were enough bins with ashtrays on there would be no problem.”

We are currently unaware whether these ashtrays were handed out by volunteers or Kingston Council officers, and as such, this cost does not include any cost involved with wages to officers handing these out, making the cost of £1.35 even more shocking.

Speaking to us, local businessman and newly elected Councillor, Jon Tolley, said:

“I reject findings from the All in One survey. I don’t think this is as much a priority as development, housing, council tax benefit reduction, recycling, mini-holland and real anti-social behaviour. I can’t see there’s any real benefit in terms of money from fines, and I refuse to believe this scheme has seen a significant reduction in litter in KT1 (unless Councillor Paton’s “It seems nicer” is how we judge things now.)
And put this all in the context of cost. If this is costing the taxpayer money, then it’s a facade. It’s a reporting-scheme facade which is nearing propaganda. The problems of litter are still there, but targetting pensioners in the rain, people watching a band in the market place, or people going into an independent shop aren’t going to win the battle. Imagine the equivalent of targetting (because that’s what they do) a group of youths outside McDonalds – not in the rain – or going into John Lewis to ask a customer to leave instead of Banquet Records. Wouldn’t happen whilst recognising that no one should drop cigarette butts, this scheme has had a lack of training to officers, a lack of proportionalaity behind it, lack of awareness to the public, and is a waste of money.”

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Kingston Council said:

“The recent All in One survey showed that clean streets were a top priority for local people but satisfaction in the cleanliness of the boroughs streets fell some way behind what local people wanted. The personalised ashtrays are just one element of the much wider Cleaner Kingston campaign aimed to reduce the amount of waste collected off our streets in the borough.”

Councillor Terry Paton, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Environment at Kingston Council said:

“We are providing smokers with these free pocket sized personal ashtrays, which allow them to safely store their cigarette butts until they find a bin, making it easier for them to do the right thing.

“It would seem that people who wouldn’t dream of dropping a crisp or sweet packet on the ground, drop their cigarette butt without thinking. The fact of the matter is that a cigarette butt is litter, is equally as damaging to the environment and substantially adds to the Council’s street cleaning costs.

“Kingston Council currently spends £2 million a year cleaning up litter, dog foul and other mess in the borough. By playing their part in keeping the borough’s streets clean, residents and visitors can help to see that money better spent on vital services.”

Considering the millions of pounds of savings that Kingston Council has to make over the coming years, we question whether using over £1000 of taxpayer money on free council-customised ashtrays is truly value for money for Kingston residents. What do you think? Comment below.


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