Town halls reap £750,000 in fly-tipping crackdown

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Councils have collected more than £750,000 from thousands of fly-tipping fines in the first year of a crackdown on illegal waste dumping, figures show.

Local authorities across England handed out more than 4,600 fixed penalty notices and collected at least £773,000 for the offence in the year after the Government gave them new powers to issue "on the spot" fines in May 2016.

But many have not used the powers, which allow councils to issue penalties of between £150-£400 to those caught in the act of fly-tipping instead of having to take them to court, a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association found.

Fixed penalty notices issued for fly-tipping: top 10 local authorities
(PA Graphics)

Of 297 English councils who responded with figures, more than two fifths (43%) said they had not issued any fly-tipping notices between May 9, 2016 when the powers were first launched, and May 8 2017.

Some councils have started using them more recently or are planning to use them, while smaller fines for littering continue to be used for low-level waste problems and more serious cases end up in prosecutions, the responses show.

London boroughs made up most of the top 10 local authorities who had issued the most fixed penalties, with Westminster topping the responses, having handed out 787 fines and collected around £130,000 according to council estimates.

Westminster City Council cabinet member for environment, sport and community David Harvey said with more businesses and visitors than any other destination in Europe, Westminster faced "unique circumstances".

"Fly tipping is a serious offence - dirty streets and public spaces seriously affect people's quality of life. Where we have to we issue fixed penalty notices in order to keep the city's streets clean and tidy and to ensure that our public spaces remain nice places for the millions of people living, working and visiting the city."

Councils spend £50m a year cleaning up flytipping. LGA has compiled a top 10 list of excuses heard from offenders https://t.co/Q5MjZtJbId

-- LGANews (@LGANews) July 30, 2016

North London's Haringey, which has one of England's highest levels of fly-tipping according to official statistics, handed out 288 penalty notices, and collected £103,000.

Across England, the number of fly-tipping incidents have risen for three years in a row, government figures show, with councils reporting 936,090 cases in 2015/2016, up 4% on the previous year.

Clearing up fly-tipped rubbish cost councils almost £50 million in 2015/2016, while enforcement action cost nearly £17 million.

Local Government Association environment spokesman Martin Tett said it was wrong that councils had to spend "vast amounts" a year tackling the problem at a time when they continued to face significant funding pressures.

The move by the Government to allow councils to apply fixed penalty notices for small scale fly-tipping - in response to requests from town halls - had been a "big step in the right direction" to help crackdown on fly-tippers, he said.

But he said councils may still feel prosecutions were the most effective course of action.

"When they take offenders to court, councils need a faster and more effective legal system which means fly-tippers are given hard-hitting fines for more serious offences.

"Local authorities should also be able to recoup all prosecution costs, rather than be left out of pocket."

An Environment Department spokeswoman said: "Fly-tipping is an unacceptable blight on our landscape, which is why we have cracked down on offenders by strengthening sentencing guidelines and giving councils the powers to hand out on-the-spot fines to fly-tippers.

"We have made it easier for vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping to be stopped, searched and seized and will continue to work with local partners to stop this inexcusable crime."

Julian Bell, chairman of London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee said: "Local authorities have a responsibility to keep public spaces clean and safe.

"London boroughs have rightly used our new powers to lead a crackdown on fly-tippers. We have sent a clear message to would-be offenders that fly-tipping will not be tolerated and that councils will take the initiative to protect public spaces."