Town hall chiefs in Wigan have issued just a handful of fines for fly-tipping under new powers they were given to impose “on the spot” penalties, new figures reveal.
Councils were handed powers to issue fixed penalty notices of between £150 and £400 for smaller cases of waste crime in May rather than having to take them through the courts.
Wigan Council has issued 11 such fines. Many more have been taken through the courts, with smokers frequently hauled before magistrates for discarding cigarette butts in the town centre.
Recent figures showed there were 2,582 incidents of fly-tipping reported to Wigan Council in 2014/15, which cost the town £126,352 to deal with.
Of the cases reported to the council, 330 were on a highway, 190 on a footpath or bridleway and 1,217 were in back alleyways. More worryingly, five incidents involved animal carcasses and in 27 case asbestos had been dumped. But the vast majority of cases, 1,582, by far were classes as other household waste, while 53 of the cases involved white goods and another 26 were other electrical goods.
Neighbouring St Helens, which has a similar fly-tipping problem, is yet to issue a single fixed penalty notice.
Nationally, fly-tipping has been on the rise in the past few years, with 900,000 incidents in 2014/2015, the most recent year for which figures are available, and councils spending £50 million on clear-up costs and £17 million on enforcement action.
The new figures were revealed following freedom of information requests by the Press Association.
Of the 302 councils with responsibility for tackling fly-tipping who responded to the FOI request, 118 had handed out fixed penalty notices.
Use of the powers ranged from issuing just one fine to more than a hundred in some areas, for illegally dumping items such as furniture, old fridges, bags of rubbish and garden waste.
In total, town halls had handed out 1,353 fixed penalties since May, the figures show.
But 184 councils had not issued any, with many having not yet put the new rules in place or saying they were in the process of doing so.
Others said they pursued illegal dumping of waste through prosecutions or employing methods such as making offenders clear up their rubbish.
The top five councils for using the powers are all London boroughs, each issuing dozens of penalties, but Southwark, which had among the worst fly-tipping rates in 2014/2015 with more than 25,000 cases, has not handed out any.Neither has Birmingham, where the council says consideration is being given to using fixing penalty notices but the current policy is prosecution which has led to people being imprisoned, having a curfew imposed or fined.
Manchester, which also has a significant fly-tipping problem, has handed out 19 fines, while Liverpool has issued one.
Local Government Association environment spokesman Martin Tett said: “At a time when councils face difficult choices about services in the light of reducing budgets, they are having to spend a vast amount each year on tackling litter and fly-tipping. This is money that would be better spent on vital services such as filling potholes.”