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Fly-tipping rises again as taxpayers face multimillion-pound clear-up bill

Published 01/09/2015

The number of fly-tipping incidents rose slightly in 2014/2015, new figures show
The number of fly-tipping incidents rose slightly in 2014/2015, new figures show

Fly-tipping is on the rise across England, with taxpayers footing a multimillion-pound bill to clear up illegally dumped waste, figures show.

Incidents of rubbish dumped illegally and the costs of dealing with it have risen for the second year running, responses from more than 200 local authorities to a Freedom of Information request from the Press Association suggest.

The number of fly-tipping incidents rose slightly in 2014/2015 to 529,462 cases across 201 councils who gave information for the past three financial years, up from 527,777 the previous year - and with both years significantly higher than in 2012/2013.

The figures suggest the upward trend in fly-tipping across England, seen in official statistics from the Environment Department (Defra) last year with a 20% increase in incidents in 2013/14, could be continuing after years of the problem being in decline.

And while many councils said they were unable to supply figures for the price of cleaning up after fly-tippers as it was included in overall street cleaning budgets or contracts, figures from 144 local authorities showed costs had also risen in the past year.

Across the 144 councils that provided data for the past three years, including those using Defra estimates for costs per incident, it cost more than £16.2 million in 2014/2015, up from just under £16 million the previous year and £13.6 million in 2012/2013.

Figures from 13 councils which supplied data for recent calendar years also suggest the number of incidents, which can range from single black bags of rubbish to old furniture or even lorry-loads of waste, and the cost of clearing them up is on the increase.

Among those councils the number of incidents reported rose from 28,631 in 2013 to 33,886 last year, and the costs rose from £522,000 to £524,000 among the six local authorities who supplied figures for both years.

Part of the rise is thought to be down to people moving house more often, with figures showing 2.6 million households had recently moved in 2013/2014, or 11% of all households, the highest proportion since 2007/2008, and the low cost of household goods.

The number of prosecutions for fly-tipping also rose last year, up from 982 in 2013/2014 to 1,216 in 2014/2015, the information from the councils shows.

Councils are using a number of measures to tackle the problem, including investigating rubbish for evidence of where it came, using CCTV and hidden cameras, running patrols with police and education campaigns to warn residents they are responsible for where their waste ends up.

Some are also providing one-off skips for dumping domestic items in problem areas or free bulky waste collections for households.

And around two-fifths of councils recorded a reduction in fly-tipping in the last year despite the overall rise, the figures show.

But the Local Government Association also wants extra powers for councils to be able to issue on-the-spot fines known as fixed penalty notices for some fly-tipping cases, such as dumping pieces of broken furniture, old televisions and mattresses.

This would save councils the expense and time of having to go to court in some cases, according to the LGA, which is also calling for local authorities to be awarded full costs in successful prosecutions.

Peter Box, the Local Government Association's environment spokesman, said local authorities were spending tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money a year on fly-tipping, which could be better spent on services such as protecting vulnerable children and keeping libraries open.

He said councils could only take fly-tippers to court, when a fine would sometimes be the more appropriate response.

"All the figures show that the huge amount of effort local authorities put into preventing and tackling fly-tipping is having a real impact," he said.

"But new powers would ensure councils can go even further in addressing what is often not just an eyesore, but also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting vermin."

A Defra spokesman said: "Fly-tipping blights communities and poses a risk to human health which is why tackling this issue is a priority for government.

"We want everyone to enjoy a cleaner, healthier country and will build on our recent successes by introducing fixed penalty notices for small scale fly-tipping.

"This will provide local authorities with another way of clamping down on those who illegally dump waste.

"Last year's increase in reported fly-tipping incidents should be seen in the context of better technology, including local authority apps, which allow members of the public to easily report this crime so authorities can take action."

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