WEST Berkshire Council is looking at introducing fixed penalty notices (FPN) in order to “toughen up” on those who illegally dispose of their household waste.
Councils have the power to issue FPNs of up to £400 to people who fly-tip and can spend the income on whatever they like.
However, unlike its neighbours in Reading and Hampshire, West Berkshire Council doesn’t currently issue fines to people who are caught committing the offence.
That could all change though, with the council’s executive member for waste, Dominic Boeck, revealing that the authority was looking at that option for the future.
At a recent meeting, the deputy leader of the opposition, Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale), asked how many reports of fly-tipping the council had received.
Mr Boeck replied, saying that, between September and November 2017 the council received 17 reports of fly-tipping on private land, compared with 25 during the same period last year.
Despite the drop in the number of reported incidents, Mr Boeck admitted it is often difficult to find enough evidence to successfully prosecute those responsible.
The council introduced charges for non-household waste at recycling centres across the district on September 4, almost a year after banning Hampshire residents from using the facilities as part of a cost-cutting measure.
Mr Boeck said at the meeting: “Fly-tipping is a criminal offence and people who dispose of their waste in this way are liable to face prosecutions, substantial penalties, seizure of assets and potentially even a prison sentence.
“We investigate fly-tipping and take action in line with our enforcement policy which highlights education in most instances as the first course of action.
“Examples of situations where we would seek to educate rather than taking enforcement action include small-scale fly-tips.”
Mr Boeck said that other examples included a misunderstanding by a homeowner of their responsibilities or their duty of care or if a business owner fails or misunderstands their responsibilities.
He added that the aim of education was to raise awareness and promote good practice and that it is typically achieved by issuing leaflets, giving guidance or by face-to-face contact.
Mr Boeck continued: “Along with any other education completed, the offender would also be issued with a warning letter and then if they re-offend we would take further action.
“If a fly-tip offence does not fall into any of these examples, then we will take enforcement action against people where there is evidence for us to be able to do that.”
However, Mr Macro said: “Sometimes it is only a penalty that will put these people off.
“There have been circumstances in my ward where roads have been blocked by fly-tipping.
“No education is going to deal with that and we really need to get to grips with it.”
Mr Boeck replied: “I absolutely agree that it is a serious issue and we will take action if we are able to.
“Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to fund the evidence to allow a successful prosecution.
“After all, fly-tippers are not in the habit of leaving their name and address. If we have the evidence, we will prosecute.
“We don’t yet issue fixed penalty notices but it is something we are going to look at to toughen up our response to fly-tipping.”