Councils take ‘no-nonsense approach’ to Christmas fly-tipping
Councils across the country have stepped up action against fly-tippers in the build-up to Christmas, as they make use of new powers to issue on-the-spot fines and crush vehicles used in fly-tipping operations.
Local authorities were given the ability to impose immediate fixed-penalty notices of up to £400 in May, and the Local Government Association (LGA) says that councils are taking an increasingly ‘no-nonsense approach’ to the issue, which last year cost English local authorities nearly £50 million in cleaning costs.
However, the LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is also calling for the closure of a legal loophole that obliges enforcement officers to give fly-tippers operating on properties ‘used for residential purposes’ seven days warning before inspecting them and seizing evidence. It also says that local authorities should be able to recoup all prosecution costs against fly-tippers to incentivise action against waste criminals.
Almost 900,000 incidents of fly-tipping are dealt with by councils in England every year, and in 2014/15 the number of recorded incidents rose by almost six per cent on 2013/14’s figure, with clear-up costs, paid for by public budgets, increasing by 11 per cent over the same year.
A similar rise has been recorded in Wales, where over 36,200 cases were reported in 2015/16, up 14 per cent (4,500 incidents) on 2014/15, at a cost of £2.1 million. This is the first year an increase has been recorded since 2007/08, when over 60,000 incidents took place in Wales. A new Landfill Disposals Tax for Wales, which the Welsh Assembly expects to be in place from April 2018, is seeking to enforce a third tier of the tax for unauthorised disposals, as a deterrent for illegal waste activity.
‘Man with a van’ phenomenon
The LGA says that a large part of this recent increase across England and Wales is the rising popularity of the ‘man with a van’ phenomenon, which involves unpermitted cold callers offering to dispose of large households goods for cash and then illegally dumping them in alleys, country roads or on privately owned land. As well as costing councils millions of pounds, waste dumped on private land must be cleared at the landowner’s expense, even if they are not responsible for the waste or complicit in the illegal activity.
Residents and businesses are legally obligated to check that any party disposing of their waste is a registered waste carrier, and if fly-tipped waste is traced back to a particular household, residents can face fines of up to £5,000.
In the buildup to Christmas, however, councils are using their powers to focus on those committing the fly-tipping, with the LGA highlighting cases of vans used for illegal dumping in Croydon and Bradford being seized and crushed.
LGA Environment spokesman Cllr Martin Tett said: “Councils are taking a zero-tolerance approach to fly-tipping, and this means using every power at their disposal – including seizing and destroying vehicles used by the dumpers.
“At a time when councils face difficult choices about services in light of reducing budgets, they are having to spend a vast amount each year on tackling litter and fly-tipping. This is money that would be better spent on vital services such as filling potholes and caring for the elderly. Litter and fly-tipping is environmental vandalism – it’s unpleasant, unnecessary and unacceptable.
“There are a number of additional changes that would help tackle littering and fly-tipping, including sharing more of the responsibility with product producers – such as mattress and chewing gum manufacturers – to contribute to the costs of clear up.
“Councils use enforcement powers proportionately and take a range of different approaches to raise awareness and change culture. This includes providing advice and encouraging residents to report incidents and businesses to keep areas next to their premises clean and clear of litter and mess that can attract dumping.”