EVERY homeowner in Southampton is at risk of being fined if they don’t bin their rubbish correctly, the Daily Echo can reveal.

It comes after city bin chiefs sent out more than 70,000 letters to homes across the city, signalling their intent to get tough on residents who repeatedly break council rubbish rules.

The official notices give civic chiefs the power to take legal action, putting all of the city’s residents at risk of a £60 fine.

However, city bin bosses insist fines will only be handed out to those who repeatedly let their bins overflow or leave rubbish bags on the street.

Those who recycle incorrectly could also be hit in the pocket.

Civic chiefs say it is the first time in “several years” that a city-wide notice has been issued.

It also comes just months after bin bosses implemented their controversial Alternative Weekly Collection (AWC) scheme.

The decision to issue the letters, known as Section 46 notices, has drawn criticism from city MP Royston Smith.

The Itchen MP, a former leader of the city council, has described the tone of the letters as “threatening”.

And he predicts the cost of producing and distributing the letters could be as much as £100,000 – a figure the council strongly denies.

Mr Smith said: “When I first read the letter I immediately thought I’d done something wrong and that I’d been served.

“I’ve got quite a lot of these experience with letters like these, imagine what Mrs Miggins down the road might have thought?

“It was threatening and I imagine the council had people calling up in a panic.”

He added: “When I was council leader a letter drop like this would cost £1 per-letter.

“If they are using the same company and they’ve sent that out to 100,000 homes then that’s £100,000.

“The council says it has no money, but that could have saved Kentish Road for a year or Cobbett Road Library for two years.”

City bin bosses have defended the move, which they say is a legal requirement if the council wishes to take legal action.

They say the notices contain a “standard form” of wording and are identical in style to previous city wide notices that were issued several years ago.

The council also insist the letters were produced to thank residents for their patients in adapting to its AWC scheme, while warning repeat offenders that they could face fines.

A city council spokesperson said: “Some households have required some help and we have visited many residents to provide advice on managing their waste.

“However, some residents are not recycling, are leaving excess waste out and have overflowing bins, which is having a negative impact on local neighbourhoods and the environment and causing frustration to fellow residents.

“The letter makes it clear that we really appreciate how well the majority of residents have adapted to changes and warns those that persistently neglect to manage their waste properly that they will receive penalties if their behaviour does not change.

“We also hope that the letter reassures residents that are frustrated by the failure of others to manage their waste and recycling that we are taking their concerns seriously.”

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, cabinet member for environment and transport, also hit back at Mr Smith’s claims that the letter-drop had cost £100,000.

She described the figure as “completely inaccurate”.

Councillor Rayment, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “The mailing was just over a quarter of the figure he (Mr Smith) has provided.”

The letters come eight months after the council scrapped weekly kerbside collections in place of an alternate weekly scheme.

Since its introduction, in June last year, the council says recycling rates have increased by two per cent, coupled with a five per cent reduction in general waste.

However, in a review of the scheme in December, the council admitted 20 per cent of residents found the switch “fairly difficult” or “very difficult”.

The report also showed the number of side-waste incidents increased following the introduction of AWC and the number of single black bags being fly tipped also increased by approximately 100 bags per month shortly after.

The council say both figures have fallen since then – with fly-tipping levels now lower than before AWC was introduced.

Reactive crews and enforcement officers have also been used to help smooth the scheme, which could help save the council up to £800,000 a year by 2020.