LGA calls for fly-tipping overhaul
The Local Government Association (LGA) has outlined that the current penalty system for tackling ‘unscrupulous fly-tippers’ is ‘unfit for purpose’.
It highlights that currently, councils can only prosecute fly-tippers by taking them to court, which can be ‘expensive and time-consuming’.
Indeed, the LGA states that local authorities in England tackle almost three-quarters of a million (711,000) fly-tipping incidents a year - costing over £36 million - but that as courts often take into account the financial circumstances of a defendant when handing down fines (and will also regard compensation as a higher priority than prosecution costs if a defendant has limited means), councils can be left ‘out of pocket’ as they may only receive partial reimbursement of clean-up costs.
As such, the LGA is calling on central government to amend current practice so that councils can be awarded full costs from defendants, and enable them to issue on-the-spot fines (known as Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to those caught fly-tipping.
Councils need a 'nimble, flexible and effective' system
Councillor Peter Box, the LGA's environment spokesman, said: "It is utterly unacceptable and inexcusable for anyone to dump waste illegally and councils know how much people hate seeing this sort of vandalism on their doorsteps.
"Chasing down the culprits and clearing up their mess costs taxpayers tens of millions of pounds every year. Currently councils can only take fly-tippers to court rather than issuing a fine – when sometimes this is a more appropriate response – and in many cases they are unable to reclaim the full costs.
"Local authorities are remarkably effective and efficient in tackling fly-tipping but the current system works against them. We need a new streamlined system which helps councils and hurts those doing the dumping, one that is nimble, flexible and effective."
He concluded: "All the figures show that the huge amount of effort local authorities put into preventing and tackling fly-tipping is having a real impact – but new powers would ensure it goes even further. Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting rats and other vermin."
A Fly-tipping Free Wales
The calls come off the back of similar proposals listed in the Welsh Government’s draft fly-tipping strategy, ‘A Fly-tipping Free Wales’.
Released in June, the strategy aims to make it easier for local authorities in Wales to combat fly-tipping, which reportedly cost councils £1.9 million in 2012/13.
The strategy outlines a range of proposals that could be taken to combat fly-tipping, including:
- considering the possibility of making the investigation of fly-tipping incidents a statutory duty;
- investigating the introduction of a Fixed Penalty Notice or other enforcement tools for fly-tipping incidents (including fines of up to £50,000 and prison sentences);
- trialling a working agreement between Natural Resources Wales, local authorities and private landowners (such as by outlining roles and responsibilities in relation to fly-tipping duties and outline best practice for dealing with incidents);
- working with Waste Awareness Wales and WRAP Cymru to change the perceptions of waste with the view to it being considered a resource;
- promoting engagement with fly-tippers to understand why people fly-tip and what would make them stop;
- working with partners to investigate the benefit of establishing or supporting the production of a trade waste directory for Wales;
- seeking to develop a standardised national training package for enforcement officers (and seeing if this can be accredited to a recognised standard);
- facilitating the production of a best practice guide for dealing with fly-tipping on public and private land; and
- working to further develop Flymapper, the system used to record fly-tipping incidents in Wales.
Further to this, the Sentencing Council (SC) issued new sentencing guidance to judges in England and Wales earlier this year, in the hopes of seeing larger fines and penalties issued to those guilty of waste offences, such as fly-tipping and polluting.
The guidance was released after the SC found a ‘lack of familiarity, particularly among magistrates’ with sentencing for these offences, a lack of standardised sentencing, and that fines were often ‘too low’ and did not reflect the seriousness of the offences committed.
As such, the guidance (which applies to all offenders aged 18 and over and organisations sentenced on or after 1 July 2014) encourages magistrates to make more use of the highest levels of fines for some of the more serious offences that come before the courts, so that offenders ‘are hit in the pocket as well as deterred from committing more crime’.