Bigger fly-tipping fines needed as offences soar 50 per cent

Tougher sentences are needed to deter fly-tipping, which latest figures shows costs councils £58 million a year to clear up.


photo of flytipping - sofa and toys by side of the road

Only 5 per cent of court-imposed fines for fly-tipping offences in England in the past six years were above £1,000, and only a sixth of them above £500, the Local Government Association reveals today.

This is despite fly-tipping incidents soaring by 50 per cent over the same period, up from 714,637 in 2012/13 to 1,072,431 in 2018/19.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, says tougher sentences are needed to deter fly-tipping, which latest figures shows costs councils £58 million a year to clear up.

Only two people have been given the maximum £50,000 fine by the courts for fly-tipping since the Government introduced new guidelines in 2014.

Councils take fly-tipping extremely seriously and are taking increasing enforcement action against the criminals responsible. Councils took action on nearly half a million incidents in 2018/19 – almost 5,000 more than the previous year and up by nearly 75,000 in six years.

Successful prosecutions brought by councils are at their highest level since 2011/12, while fixed penalty notices – issued by councils for smaller fly-tipping cases – are at record levels. Seizure of vehicles – up 51 per cent over the past year - is also at an all-time high.

However, due to demand on councils’ legal duties, such as caring for elderly and disabled people, protecting children and providing homelessness support, less money is available for discretionary powers – like issuing penalty notices for fly-tipping.

The LGA is calling on the Government to work with councils on reviewing guidance to the courts to ensure the worst offenders face tougher sentences, and that councils have the funding needed to investigate and prosecute fly-tippers.

LGA Environment spokesman, Cllr David Renard, said:

“Fly-tipping is not only an illegal, inexcusable and ugly blight on society, it is a serious public health risk and costs taxpayers in England £58 million a year to clear up.

“Councils are determined to crack down on the problem and have increased enforcement activity, including installing CCTV at fly-tipping hotspots to support successful prosecutions.

“However, prosecuting fly-tippers often requires time-consuming and laborious investigations, with a high threshold of proof. Tougher sentences are needed to act as a stronger deterrent to criminals dumping waste.

“This is why we want to work with the Government on reviewing sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, so offenders are given bigger fines for more serious offences, and ensure councils have the funding needed to investigate incidents.

“Manufacturers can also contribute, by providing more take-back services so people can hand in old furniture and mattresses when they buy new ones. People should report fly-tipping as soon as possible.”

How to dispose of items responsibily

  • Use a kerbside collection service
  • Only use a licensed waste carrier – do a quick check on the Environment Agency website to find a licensed carrier. A legitimate waste operator will be happy to show you their license. Be suspicious of anyone who only take cash or advertises on social media
  • Use the bulky waste collection service from your council or take waste to a household waste and recycling centre
  • Some charities will collect items if they can be resold.

Case studies

  • A delivery driver who fly-tipped household waste in four separate trips to a trading estate “after dark” in just over a month was fined £300 at court following a prosecution brought by Herefordshire Council.
  • A man who was paid to remove carpet waste and instead dumped it in a remote country lane was fined £350 by magistrates following a prosecution brought by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council. Since May 2018, 14 people have been convicted of fly-tipping offences in cases taken to court by the council.
  • Eye-catching signs that question why people are fly-tipping – including asking whether their mum still cleans up after them – are being installed in waste dumping hotspots by South Cambridgeshire District Council as part of a campaign to tackle fly-tipping. More than 900 recorded fly-tips are reported in South Cambridgeshire each year – some costing the council or landowners as much as £2,000 to clear.
  • A resident who operated a ‘tip run’ waste clearance service on Facebook has been successfully prosecuted by Wiltshire Council. The man was paid £20 to collect a large quantity of waste as a result of the ‘cheap tip run’ adverts, but instead of lawfully disposing the waste at a commercial waste tip, he fly-tipped it across two sites near Calne. He was ordered to pay fines and costs totalling £3,275 and was given 140 hours community work. 
  • City of Wolverhampton Council’s ‘Shop a tipper’ campaign, which encourages residents to report fly-tippers, won the 2019 Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Excellence Awards, announced last month. If the tip-off leads to a successful fine or prosecution, the informer receives a £100 gift card as a reward. Since the launch of the campaign in January 2019,Wolverhampton has seen a 50 per cent drop in fly-tipping. The council has also taken a tough new approach to tackling the crime by seizing and crushing fly-tippers’ vehicles.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1.    Fly-tipping statistics for England, 2018/19
2.    Fly-tipping statistics and actions taken in England, 2007/08 to 2018/19
3.    The maximum fine for fly-tipping is £50,000 and/or a five-year prison sentence