Amidst all the complaints from town halls about spending cuts there is one area where they could be doing more without needing funds from the Council Taxpayer or from central government. This is enforcement action against dropping litter.
In my borough of Hammersmith and Fulham we used to issue around a thousand Fixed Penalty Notices a year – at £80 a time. £80,000 would be a considerable contribution to the pay bill of the team of four people – who would also carry out other enforcement work. (Since Labour came in to power earlier this year litter bugs in my borough have had an easier time.)
With fly-tipping the equation is more complicated as the fines go to central government coffers – although councils can recover their costs. This is not just the court costs but the costs of investigating and clearing up the incident. Then there is cost of the alternative. Councils that don’t take enforcement action have a consequence for their soft approach – there is more fly-tipping which they have the cost of clearing up. There is also lost revenue from Trade Waste collection. Why should businesses pay when they can dump it for free?
In broad terms where councils punishing fly-tipping a priority it should pay for the salaries of the staff who do the work.
Partly this is about working with the police – really the Safer Neighbourhood Teams. It is also about encouraging all council staff (and their contractors staff) to help gather evidence of culprits – housing officers, park keepers, road sweepers. CCTV should be used to identify offenders. Those convicted should be named and shamed.
In 2013/14 councils dealt with 852,000 incidents of fly-tipping – a 20 per cent increase on the previous year. There were nearly 500,000 enforcement actions – an 18 per cent increase on the previous year. My hunch – though I’m not sure how this could be proved – is that
It is now more worthwhile for councils to act. The Sentencing Council has issued guidance that fines should be higher.
There are also new rules coming in this year while will make it easier for councils to seize vans used for fly-tipping.
The changes mean “allowing enforcement authorities to stop, search and instantly seize vehicles suspected of illegal waste disposal and broadening the range of waste offences for which a vehicle can be seized by enforcement authorities.”
Often councils have huge budgets and thinking of those terms regard dealing with fly-tipping as a very footling item. That is not a view shared by their residents. Fly-tipping can blight an area. Councils should have more incentive to deal with it – by being able to keep all the proceeds of the fines.