POLITICIANS are often accused of talking rubbish but, just occasionally, there can be good reason for it.

Littering is a massive problem that blights our streets and costs the taxpayer about £800 million in clean-up costs every year.

To put that figure into context, it’s more than twice the amount that Boris Johnson and the Brexit campaigners claimed would be put back into the NHS if Britain left Europe.

Imagine what impact that sum could have on the current problems of the NHS were it to be spent on that vital national resource instead of clearing up after people with a total disregard for their environment and the wider community.

With the best will in the world, accidents can happen and, human nature being what it is, it’s unlikely that every individual would ever be convinced to take responsibility for their actions, so there will always be a need for substantial sums of money to keep our streets clean.

But, surely, most people would agree that as a nation of supposedly civilized people we should not have to waste so much tax revenue on cleaning up, well, waste?

So, somehow, the problem must be tackled and politicians will be forced to continue to literally talk rubbish until there is a massive improvement in society’s attitudes to littering.

There was an outcry on social media when the Telegraph & Argus revealed this week that the number of fines handed out for littering in Bradford had increased from 43 in the whole of 2016 to more than 820 in a single month.

The increase had taken place following Bradford Council’s decision to employ a private contractor, security firm 3GS, to enforce anti-littering laws.

They issued 2,947 fixed penalty notices (FPN) in the period since July last year, when fines were increased from £75 (£50 for early payment) to £80 with no reduction for paying early. And the Council, which had not previously prosecuted anyone for non-payment, took 55 people to court.

Despite the cries of “foul” from those who claimed it was just a money-making exercise, the Council says it’s new approach is working.

“Although it is too early to provide definitive evidence, our clean teams have reported that the city centre is looking cleaner and there is less litter for them to pick up,” a spokesman said.

And there’s no sign the Council will be softening its approach: “With the help of the courts we are now able to use a swifter judicial procedure which allows us to prosecute non-payers much more quickly. Future figures will reflect this.

“The message is clear. If you don’t want to be issued with an FPN, then don’t drop litter or create other mess. If you have been issued with an FPN and don’t want to end up paying a much more expensive penalty as well as acquiring a criminal record, then pay up.”

For anyone feeling hard done by, Bradford Council is far from alone in flexing its muscles with this new get-tough approach.

In Dudley, for instance, the council has launched a new “zero tolerance hit squad” to clamp down on litter and dog fouling.

The company it has employed to manage the purge, Kingdom Enforcement Services, is made up of former police and military personnel armed with body cameras and already has an impressive record of significantly increasing the number of FPNs issued in more than 30 different local authorities, including Birmingham.

Dudley Council will not pay for the service, as the full cost will be met from the revenues received from FPNs issued.

Litter is also high on the agenda north of the border, where a pan-national organisation works across the public and private sectors to find ways to stop littering, fly-tipping and the dumping of trade waste.

It estimates 15,000 tonnes of litter are discarded in Scotland each year at a cost of £50 million to local authorities. There’s a small clue to its attitude to the problem in its name: Zero Waste Scotland.

For those who believe habitually dropping sweet wrappers, cigarette butts, crisp packets, takeaway containers and the like is socially acceptable, the bad news is that the crackdown on their behaviour is going to get a good deal worse.

The Government has announced that maximum on-the-spot litter fines will almost double to £150 from April this year – and new powers will also come into force to tackle those who drop litter from cars. In future councils will also be able to impose these fines on the owners of vehicles from which litter is thrown, even if it was discarded by someone else.

The Government has also set up a £500,000 innovation fund to find creative ways to deal with littering.

Announcing the changes, environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Littering blights our communities, spoils our countryside and taxpayers’ money is wasted cleaning it up.

“Throwing rubbish from a vehicle is just as unacceptable as dropping it in the street and we will tackle this anti-social behaviour by hitting litter louts in the pocket.

“These new fines will make sure the perpetrators, not the local community, bear the cost of keeping our streets and roads clean.”