Because councils no longer prosecute fly-tippers, it has become a crime in large parts of the country.

A third of five local authorities didn’t prosecute the offence in a prosecution, while only one fifth issued fixed penalty notices.

Illegal dumping hit a record 1.1million cases in 2020/21, but the number of prosecutions and court fines fell by half over the same period – with just two in every 1,000 offences resulting in a punishment.

Campaigners say criminal gangs are targeting lucrative industries, and they target councils that don’t do anything ‘because it’s easy to fly-tip without impunity.

Data obtained from 251 councils under Freedom of Information requests revealed that 150 failed to prosecute any individuals while 50 issued no fixed penalty notices – which were designed to make it easier to punish criminals.

In 30 local authority areas there were no prosecutions or fines – meaning fly-tipping was effectively decriminalised.

Mountain of waste: Illegally dumped rubbish in Mill Hill, north London. Campaigners are warning that criminal gangs now know they ¿can fly-tip with impunity¿

 Mountain of waste: Illegally dumped rubbish in Mill Hill, north London. Campaigners have warned that criminal gangs are now aware they “can fly-tip without impunity”.

The Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs released figures this week that show the decline in fixed penalty notices to 57 600 last year and the decrease of fines to courts to just 1,313.

The total value of fines fell two-thirds to £440,000 – equivalent to 39p per fly-tip.

Warwick District Council was one of 30 councils which failed to launch a single prosecution or issue any fines, despite shelling out £111,058 cleaning up 1,680 incidents of fly-tipping – more than four per day.

Eastleigh Borough Council, in Hampshire, spent £85,000 of taxpayers’ cash cleaning up 1,179 dumps, but also issued zero fines and launched no prosecutions.

Winchester City Council received video evidence that a fly-tipper was dumping garbage, but declined to investigate as ‘the offenders hadn’t given permission to being filmed. 

The agency issued only six fines in 2013 and prosecuted just two offenders. ClearWaste allows households to record illegal rubbish dumping and was the subject of Freedom of Information requests.

Eyesore: The Surrey site still attracts tippers

 Eyesore: The Surrey site still attracts tippers

Martin Montague is the founder of ClearWaste. He stated that Fly-tipping has been a significant problem for rural societies. It is shocking that so few local authorities have ever issued any penalties or tried to prosecute waste criminals. They know that they can just fly-tippe with impunity. 

Infractions rose because many homes undertook home improvement projects and council tips closed. Fly-tipping is also encouraged by less frequent collection of bins.

If cases do reach court, serious crimes are met with fines of less than £1,000 – equivalent to a day’s work for a criminal fly-tipper.

The pandemic saw offences soar because council tips were closed, while many households undertook home improvements. There are also concerns that less frequent bin collections encourage fly-tipping

Because council tipping was closed during the pandemic, offences rose and many people made home improvements. Fly-tipping is also encouraged by less frequent collection of bins.

The Environment Agency investigates organised waste crimes and bigger illegal dumps. However, the Environment Agency does not have jurisdiction over fly-tipping along roadsides or on farms.

The government has also been accused overstating its official response. It recently claimed councils carried out 456,000 ‘enforcement actions’ last year – but admitted this includes cases that are simply ‘recorded’ or where ‘action is under consideration’.

Robert Goodwill is a Tory member of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee and a farmer. He said that councils should take this issue more seriously. To discourage fly tipping, we need to impose punitive penalties and in extreme cases prison sentences. It should be fair to the amount of profits that criminals make.

Festering: The dump near Ludlow. While the Environment Agency is responsible for investigating organised waste crime and larger illegal dumps, councils are responsible for prosecuting fly-tipping on the roadsides and on farmland

Festering at the dump in Ludlow The Environment Agency investigates organised waste crimes and bigger illegal dumps. However, the Environment Agency does not have jurisdiction over fly-tipping along roadsides or on farms.

Duncan Baker is Tory MP for North Norfolk. He said, ‘We can not turn our backs to this. Antisocial and environmental crimes like these can cause a loss of pride in the community they call home.

Countryside Alliance’s Sarah Lee called enforcement numbers ‘incredibly troubling’. She stated that fly-tippers, whether acting on their own or in conjunction with an organized criminal gang need to be aware of the fact that harsh punishment will follow for selfish acts.

David Renard of the Local Government Association stated: “Councils continue working tirelessly to combat the thousands of incidents each year.

“However, prosecution must meet a very high standard of proof. Even if a defendant is found guilty, current penalties imposed by courts do not deter.

‘Fly-tipping currently costs local taxpayers at least £50million a year to clean up, but until the fine matches the crime, the burden will continue to fall on residents.’

Winchester and Eastleigh Councils were contacted to provide comment. Warwick District Council refused to comment.

The bill is paid by the taxpayer, as per law 

The Surrey mega-dumpers have not been brought to justice by a legal battle.

In 2018, the landowner was penalized but said he could not stop criminal fly-tippers from littering his property, which included 66 vehicles and caravans in Pirbright.

Guildford Borough Council finally spent £180,000 removing 225 tons of waste– but this week there was still a huge pile of it on site. 

Meanwhile, company director Jonathan Wells, 39, was fined just £1,272 for abandoning a massive dump of waste in Shropshire.

His land near Ludlow became a fly-tipping hotspot and eventually cost £45,000 to clear in 2018 after his firm, LMS Skips, went bust.

Wells pleaded guilty to two offences before Worcester magistrates, with each fine of £636 roughly double the cost of hiring a skip.