Councillors have said they will look into the possibility of taking action on chewing gum after it was revealed Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) will spend almost £10,000 cleaning it from the High Street.

Councillor Ian Jeffrey asked if it would be possible to introduce a scheme “where money for the removal of chewing gum is raised by a sort of local tax on the people who sell chewing gum.”

Cllr Phil North responded that it was “certainly something we [TVBC] can look into”.

Chewing gum costs councils across the country a significant amount of money to remove every year. According to the Local Government Association, the average town centre spends £60,000 per year on removing it, totalling £56 million nationally.

As a result, various proposals have been made to tackle the issue. In Islington, the council installed signs advertising bins in gum “hotspots” which saw the amount of gum dropped reduce by 47 per cent.

Meanwhile, The Times reported late last month that the government could be bringing in a charge for manufacturers of chewing gum to cover the cost of cleaning up their products unless they cover the costs voluntarily.

Potential efforts in Test Valley were raised at a cabinet meeting of TVBC on Wednesday, April 14. Councillors were discussing an item relating to the rollover of certain unspent budget items into the next.

These items include £3,320 on works at playgrounds across the borough, over £20,000 in training for staff, and £3,000 for marketing of The Lights theatre in Andover, currently being used as a vaccination hub. In addition, £9,800 is to be rolled over for a one-off removal of chewing gum from Andover town centre.

Cllr Maureen Flood, TVBC’s finance portfolio holder, said: “Each year there are certain budgets that are approved within services that are not spent by the end of the financial year. Rather than lose the budget for any of these items this report recommends that the budgets are carried forwards into 2021/2022 financial year.

“The total amount recommended to be carried forward is £39,640. There was budget provision for these items in 2021 so carrying them forward does not create any budget pressure.”

The chewing gum item in particular drew attention from councillors, with Cllr David Drew saying: “This is a relatively straightforward moving forward of some money but I would also like to highlight an item that I was distressed to read about – litter removal. We’re going to spend nearly £10,000 on removing chewing gum from Andover town centre.

“This chewing gum doesn’t get there by itself, it is put there by the good residents of Andover, or shall I say the not quite so good residents of Andover, and it might be useful if we made it clear this was the cost of people dropping chewing gum and not putting it in the litter bins, of which we provide plenty.”

Cllr North said publicising this cost was “a good idea”.

Cllr Jeffrey then spoke, saying: “I’m rather interested in the subject Cllr Drew just raised. I firmly agree with him that this is an upsetting thing to have to spend £10,000 on and I have heard of some schemes afoot in some towns where money for removal of chewing gum is raised by a sort of local tax on the people who sell chewing gum.

“Have we ever considered anything like that in Test Valley?”

Cllr North responded that he was not aware of any plans, saying: “It’s not something that I have heard of being discussed in the past, or whether we have the powers to do that, but it’s certainly something we can look into and respond to you if it is something we can do and consider further.”

The proposals were then put to a vote, and passed without dissent.