In a parliamentary debate, Waste and Resource Minister Robbie Moore called on local authorities to hand out more fixed penalty notices (FPNs) to fly-tippers.
During the debate on fly-tipping, Moore also said he was disappointed some local authorities are considering closing their household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs).
Moore said: “I would urge local authorities to look at the negative consequences associated with fly-tipping as a result of closing HWRCs. I would urge them to keep those centres open because the negative financial consequences could outweigh the positives.”
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Dyke replied that local councils are being forced to close HWRCs because of a lack of funding.
She said: “Many councils are now in a financial crisis and on a cliff edge; they are having to make some very stark, difficult and heartbreaking decisions.
“I urge the Minister to consider giving councils more funding to ensure that we can keep those household waste and recycling centres open, and avoid any detriment for our countryside.”
Moore replied that the “increased fly-tipping as a result of closing HWRCs” is cost to the taxpayer that local authorities should pick up. He continued: “Closing HWRCs should be an absolute last resort, and it is frustrating to see that option being explored, particularly in my own area (Keighley constituency).”
Lee Marshall, CIWM Policy and External Affairs Director, FCIWM MILM, said CIWM is disappointed by some of the comments in the parliamentary debate.
Reacting to the debate, he said: “Councils are under immense financial pressures and already do a lot to tackle littering and fly-tipping with the limited resources they have available.
“There is no evidence to support the claim that there is a link between HWRC availability and fly-tipping and, while we need a robust network of HWRCs across the UK, if the funds are not made available, councils have to manage their networks in line with their individual circumstances.
“If politicians want more action on fly-tipping, adequate resources must be made available to councils and regulators to support this. The implementation of the digital waste tracking reforms and the new carriers, brokers and dealers regime will also play a vital role in tackling this issue.”
There is no evidence to support the claim that there is a link between HWRC availability and fly-tipping.
Last year, as part of the UK government’s plan to tackle “anti-social behaviour”, the Prime Minister promised to increase the upper limit on fines for fly-tipping from £400 to £1,000. The UK government also said that local authorities will keep the funds generated from fines to “reinvest in clean up and enforcement”.
When pressed on whether he would increase the upper limit on fines again, Moore was critical of local authorities that are not issuing any FPNs for fly-tipping offences.
Moore said: “Many local authorities do not issue any prosecutions in a year. We have to ask why a power that is available to many local authorities is not being used. Rather than simply looking at increasing the penalty, the first step of deterrence must be to ensure that local authorities use the powers awarded to them.
“Some councils, with significant fly-tipping issues, are barely scratching the surface, and are not issuing any FPNs in the first place. We have to ensure that those penalties are imposed, to create a deterrent.
“The Department has written to those councils, reaffirming expectations that they should take tougher action, and encouraging them to reach out to others to learn how better to tackle fly-tipping.”
The latest data from Defra on fly-tipping incidents shows local authorities carried out 536,000 enforcement actions in 2022/23, a 6% increase from 507,000 in 2021/22. The number of FPNs issued was 73,000 in 2022/23, a 19% decrease from 91,000 in 2021/22, which was the second most common enforcement action behind investigations and accounted for 14% of all actions in 2022/23.
The Department has written to those councils, reaffirming expectations that they should take tougher action.
In its Antisocial Behaviour Action Plan, the government committed to publishing league tables on fly-tipping and the use of on-the-spot fines as an enforcement action. Moore said that this has “increased scrutiny” of how councils use their powers.
Moore also went on to praise Buckinghamshire and West Northamptonshire Councils for adopting higher rates of fines, which he said showed that crimes “are being taken seriously in those areas”.
Earlier in the debate, Sarah Jones MP mentioned that Merton Council had begun publishing a “wall of shame”. Jones explained the council puts posters of fly-tippers up around fly-tipping hotspots. She suggested that this could be something the Waste and Resource Minister could encourage on a national level.
Moore said he thought this was a “good idea” and it is “already in the gift of local authorities”.