by David Bean

The House of Commons has heard a statement from Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) marking its publication of a new report on government actions to combat waste crime.

The Countryside Alliance has long campaigned on the problem of fly-tipping in the countryside. Our members, including farmers and rural businesses, frequently face having to clear up fly-tipped waste from their land at great cost and are resorting to drastic measures to deter the crime, such as blockading gates and field entrances with machinery and other items.

Clearly, therefore, fly-tipping is not a victimless crime and government figures on fly-tipping only tell part of the story. As the Committee highlighted, official figures on the number of incidents on private land and the associated clear up costs are patchy. Evidence suggests that private landowners spend upwards of £47 million a year clearing up fly-tipped waste, but even this figure is widely accepted to be on the low side.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Geoffrey said:

“Waste crime is a large and costly problem that causes great angst both to those who are directly affected by waste ending up on their land, leaving them to clear it up, and to the public who deserve to be able to enjoy clean and healthy towns and countryside. The PAC has clearly set out its concern about how Government are combating it, and most crucial is the lack of strategy or plan for achieving their hugely ambitious target of eliminating waste crime by 2043. This could be a huge win for the Government and the people of this country, and I urge DEFRA to get on with it.”

The Public Accounts Committee’s report, available here, makes seven key observations and accompanying recommendations:

  1. The Government’s 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy is being delivered too slowly. Progress should be accelerated and Defra should provide an outline plan for meeting its ambition to eliminate waste crime by 2043.
  2. Data on the scale of waste crime are inadequate and not convincingly improving. New solutions should be developed, including innovative techniques such as the use of satellite monitoring.
  3. While it has helped increase recycling rates, landfill tax has raised the incentives to commit waste crime and HMRC has been too slow to prosecute violations. This should be considered in the current landfill tax review and HMRC should report on its progress on improving prosecution.
  4. Penalties for waste crime are not a sufficient deterrent, with organised criminal gangs regarding fines as merely a business expense. Enforcement should be improved and the sentencing guidelines further considered.
  5. Local authorities need more support to tackle fly-tipping; Defra should set a national framework.
  6. The Environment Agency should write to the Committee with more detail on the scale of illegal waste export, and further plans to tackle it.
  7. Despite a new digital waste tracking system being a key element of the 2018 Strategy, four years later its scheduled implementation is still another two years away. Defra should write to the Committee with details of its IT contracting and implementation plans.

We last briefed MPs on the devastating impact of fly-tipping and waste crime on rural communities in May, and will continue to highlight it on their behalf. To support our work, please consider joining the Countryside Alliance today.

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