NO court fines were dished out to Swindon fly-tippers over the course of a year, despite hundreds of reports of waste being dumped illegally.
But Swindon Borough Council insists it retains a tough stance against those responsible and says it has handed out punishments to those caught doing it.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs data shows 739 fly-tipping incidents were reported to the council in 2020-21.
This was well down on the 1,504 discoveries made the year before.
But no fines resulting from court convictions were issued in the area last year – and none were issued in 2019-20 either.
Despite this, the council’s cabinet member for service, delivery, waste and transport Kevin Parry said: “In Swindon, we are taking a zero-tolerance approach towards fly-tipping; not only is it a criminal offence, it’s a blight on our environment and extremely costly to clear up – diverting much-needed funds away from other priority areas.
“New initiatives have been launched in the Borough over the last few months to catch those responsible for fly-tipping, such as installing mobile cameras in fly-tipping hotspots and putting up signage in known fly-tipping areas across the town.
“But we can’t stop fly-tipping on our own, we need residents to help us in our efforts by reporting fly-tipping if they spot it and making sure they dispose of their waste responsibly through licensed waste carriers.
“Daily slots are available to book at the Household Waste Recycling Centre through our website or via customer services.
“We also offer bulky waste collections for a fee, if residents have larger household items they’d like us to come and collect from their properties.”
The council recently posted on Facebook addressing the action it has taken against fly-tippers.
It said: “Since May we’ve fined 58 people for illegally dumping their rubbish in our town.”
It went on to add that it needed the help of the people of Swindon to combat the practice, by reporting any instances of fly-tipping to the council via www.swindon.gov.uk/flytipping
It also urged people to dispose of their waste responsibly and only use licensed waste carriers to take their waste away for them.
The 58 fines mentioned are part of 1,116 enforcement actions that Swindon Borough Council issued this year.
Across the local authority border, in November a Swindon woman was fined £400 by Wiltshire Council for giving her rubbish to an unlicensed waste collector who then dumped it in Lyneham.
Swindon council leader David Renard, believes there should be stricter punishments for fly-tippers.
Speaking to GB News he said: “There should be stronger deterrents. The average fine was £438 for the last year we have figures for and that clearly not a deterrent for unlicensed operators. We have been lobbying government for stiffer penalties.”
Across England, a record 1.1 million incidents of rubbish dumped on highways and beauty spots were found in 2020-21, up from 980,000 the previous year.
But the number of court fines halved from 2,672 to just 1,313 – with their total value decreasing from £1.2 million to £440,000.
The Country Land and Business Association said the “disgraceful behaviour” blights the countryside and warned that the true extent of fly-tipping across England is probably even higher than feared.
The CLA, which represents rural businesses, said the vast majority of fly-tipping occurs on private land, which the figures do not cover.
CLA president Mark Tufnell said: “These figures do not tell the full story of this disgraceful behaviour which blights our beautiful countryside.
“Fly-tipping continues to wreck the lives of many of us living and working in the countryside – and significant progress needs to be made to stop it.
“It’s not just the odd bin bag but large household items, from unwanted sofas to broken washing machines, building materials and even asbestos being dumped across our countryside.”
Swindon saw 3.3 fly-tipping incidents per 1,000 people last year – which was well below the average across England of 20.1.
Household waste accounted for 582 (79 per cent) incidents last year, while 84 separate incidents were classed as large enough to fill a tipper lorry. These cost the council £50,000 to clear up.
The Government said the first national coronavirus lockdown impacted many local authorities’ recycling programmes, and that changes to household purchasing may also have driven the increased fly-tipping.
Resources and Waste Minister Jo Churchill said: “During the pandemic, local authorities faced an unprecedented challenge to keep rubbish collections running and civic amenity sites open, and the Government worked closely with them to maintain these critical public services.
“We have already given local authorities a range of powers to tackle fly-tipping and we are going further; strengthening powers to detect and prosecute waste criminals through the new Environment Act, consulting on introducing electronic waste tracking and reforming the licensing system.”