England: Defra publishes local authority fly-tipping stats for 2021/22

Defra has published local authority fly-tipping enforcement league tables to improve transparency around the punishment of waste crimes alongside new attempts to crack down on antisocial behaviour. 

fly-tippingThe league tables, published today (23 August), track the number of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) issued by local authorities for waste crimes in 2021/22, as well as those that had the highest and lowest ratios of FPNs issued to their total recorded fly-tipping incidents.

The tables were announced as part of the government’s new ‘Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan’ and are intended to increase transparency around the use of on-the-spot fines as well as ‘to show which local authorities are taking a muscular approach’.

The tables count the total number of FPNs issued by each local authority for fly-tipping, breaching the household waste duty of care (the responsibility of a household to make sure their waste is disposed of legally), littering in conjunction with fly-tipping and any other fly-tipping related incidents.

The notices are normally issued on the spot and involve a fine. The upper limit on fines for various FPNs was raised by £600 in July as part of the Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan and is now £1,000.

Actions against fly-tipping statistics

Local authorities carried out a total of 507,000 enforcement actions for fly-tipping in 2021/22 – compared to 455,000 in 2020/21. This totals an increase of 52,000 (or 11 per cent).

A change in methodology means that this data is not necessarily comparable to 2019/20 data and earlier even though these rates may look like a return to pre-Covid levels of enforcement actions.

The 2020/21 recording period covered the first year of the pandemic, during which some local authorities were unable to maintain all their recycling collections and the nation saw widespread closures of household waste recycling centres (HWRCs). The number of enforcement actions in 2020/21 fell by 18,057 compared to 2019/20.

The numbers: Waste crime enforcement

The five authorities that issued the most FPNs were: Waltham Forest, Merton, Basildon, Westminster and Ealing, though they each had variable fly-tipping incident rates. Basildon issued 6,420 FPNs for only 3,682 incidents, – a ratio of approximately two FPNs for every incident. Meanwhile, Westminster issued 5,003 FPNs for 18,749 incidents – a ratio of less than one FPN per three incidents.

Enforcement actions are varied and can include: investigations, warning letters, statutory notices, FPNs, duty of care inspections, stop and searches, vehicle seizures, formal cautions and prosecutions. Though the number of other enforcement actions performed was included in the league tables, only the number of FPNs issued was used to rank the local authorities.

30 local authorities reported issuing only one or two FPNs and 43 reported issuing none at all. Only eight of the 43, however, performed no enforcement actions.

Of the 20 local authorities with the highest FPN to incident ratios in 2021/22, Thurrock, Basildon, Brighton and Hove, and Brentwood all issued more FPNs than they had incidents. In Thurrock, 4,341 FPNs were given for only 1,953 incidents – more than two times as many.

Defra explains this could be because FPNs were given to multiple offenders for single incidents or because smaller fly-tipping incidents may have been recorded together as one larger offence. There could be potential errors or delays in reporting.

These are not the only places we see more enforcement actions than incidents. The rate of success in the prosecution of fly-tippers has been consistently high over the last decade, but this year's fly-tipping statistics (also released by Defra) presented a success rate of 100.4 per cent. This is because more than one outcome can be awarded for a particular prosecution, raising the percentages. Even so, in 2021/22 only 37 of the 1,959 prosecutions bought for fly-tipping were lost.

The report also ranked the 20 authorities with the lowest ratio of FPNs issued to fly-tipping incidents in 2021/22. The lowest scoring was Liverpool which issued only one FPN despite seeing 18,976 incidents. This is the only enforcement action reported by Liverpool in the period.

Liverpool's FPN to incident ratio is more than three times lower than the next local authority, Gateshead, which also issued only one FPN despite reporting 5,644 incidents. They did, however, perform 162 other forms of enforcement action.

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