NO FINES were issued for fly-tipping in Blaenau Gwent last year, despite a rise in the number of reported incidents, it has been revealed.
Blaenau Gwent council said coronavirus has had an impact on investigations, and that some evidence normally recovered from waste may have been lost.
A Freedom of Information request, published on whatdotheyknow.com, shows the council issued no fines for fly-tipping and just 186 for littering offences in 2020.
In 2019, Blaenau Gwent council issued some 805 £125 fines for littering offences.
The council also carried out two prosecutions for fly-tipping in 2019 and issued one £400 fine for fly-tipping and six fines for household duty of care offences.
But while issuing no fines in 2020, the number of complaints about fly-tipping increased by 13 per cent in Blaenau Gwent.
Researchers from the universities of Southampton and Portsmouth have reported a sharp increase in fly-tipping across the UK following the closure of tips, while the number of DIY projects has increased by householders stuck at home.
The number of complaints made about fly-tipping in Blaenau Gwent in 2020 was 1,325, up from 1,168 in 2019.
Labour councillor John Morgan said it was “extremely disappointing” that no fines have been issued, but that he understood the impact of the pandemic on the situation.
“I understand the issue of the pandemic, but action should be taken when evidence is found,” he said.
“The fact that no penalty notices have been issued is letting the general public down, but it’s also letting the council workforce down who are out there clearing up fly-tipping.”
However, councillor Joanna Wilkins, the council’s executive member for the environment, said the authority is “determined to pursue prosecutions where we can and continue to be one of the top-performing authorities”.
“Over the past few years we have consistently been one of the top-performing local authorities in Wales for enforcement outcomes when it comes to waste regulation offences,” Cllr Wilkins said.
“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has presented significant and unprecedented challenges this last year.
“Covid safety measures means enforcement work in relation to fly-tipping investigations has to be carried out in a way that minimises the risk of further spreading the virus.
“The removal and safe disposal of potentially infectious waste was our priority during the early stages of the pandemic and this meant that some evidence that would have normally been recovered from the waste may have subsequently been lost.
“In addition to this, staff have been diverted to dealing with the pressing issue of infection control in our communities and ensuring business compliance with Covid secure measures.
“The resource available for proactive waste regulation investigation work has been significantly reduced in order to deal with the immediate threat that the virus presents to public health.
“We do have a number of active investigations, however the need to minimise contact between people can mean that these investigations can take longer than they normally would.”
Elsewhere, Monmouthshire council issued three fines for fly-tipping in 2020 and one for a breach of householder duty of care.
But no fines were issued for littering offences in Monmouthshire.