'Sick of seeing beautiful Northumberland turned into rubbish dump' - row over fly-tipping figures

Fly-tipping is the latest front in the war of words between the Labour opposition and the Conservative administration at Northumberland County Council.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 10:44 am
Captions: Fly-tipping near Druridge Bay.
Captions: Fly-tipping near Druridge Bay.

Labour has highlighted Government figures which they say ‘reveal fly-tipping in Northumberland is at an all-time high’.

But the Tory leadership has dismissed their claims, saying that it takes the issue very seriously, has not reduced resources and is working to tackle it ‘in the isolated areas where there have been increases’.

Meanwhile, a council spokesman outlined that the rise in recorded incidents in 2017-18 was due to a change in recording practices, while more recent figures also show a huge leap in the number of actions against fly-tippers carried out last year. He added that the authority has a ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to the offence.

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Fly-tipping at Red Row just off the A1068 – next to a no fly-tipping sign – in the summer. PIcture by Jeff Newton

The figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that there were 2,511 incidents of fly-tipping across the county in 2017-18 after the Conservatives took control at County Hall, around 500 more than the 2,030 during the previous year under the Labour administration. The highest number of incidents during Labour’s four-year reign was 2,260.

At the same time, the number of actions carried out by the council in relation to fly-tipping offences, which covers everything from warning letters to fixed penalty notices and prosecutions, dropped from a high of 1,936 in 2015-16 to 1,277 in 2017-18.

‘Sick of seeing Northumberland turned into rubbish dump’

Coun Brian Gallacher, Labour’s shadow cabinet member for the environment and local services, said: “People in Northumberland are sick of seeing their beautiful county turned into a rubbish dump.

Fly-tipping at Summerhouse Lane in Ashington.

“From Ashington to Druridge Bay – the jewel in Northumberland’s crown, we’re seeing a significant increase in people and businesses dumping their waste.

“The Tories have cut an eye-watering £4million to local services, the department which keeps our streets clean, and sadly, the impact is clear for all to see across Northumberland, with fly-tipping at an all-time high.

“When Labour was in power at the county council, jobs in local services increased with seasonal workers kept on in the winter months.”

But Coun Glen Sanderson, the cabinet member for the environment and local services, said: “This Conservative administration takes fly-tipping very seriously and we are determined to reduce it across Northumberland.

“We have not reduced resources to deal with fly-tipping and in the isolated areas where there have been increases, we are working with communities to assist and educate.

“We now record all reported instances meticulously so we can get to the root of the problem.”

The Labour Group has also announced that all of its county councillors will pledge their support to community clean-ups.

“Across the county, there are so many amazing volunteers who do regular litter-picks,” Coun Gallacher added. “By pledging Labour’s unwavering and continued support to keeping our streets clean, we’re hoping to send a message to the Tories that cuts to local services have gone too far.”

At the start of September, Labour councillors began highlighting issues which they say show the impact council cuts are having, publishing pictures of fly-tipping and overgrown weeds, which they claimed show ‘how communities are being let down’.

This row over local services. was sparked by a motion put forward by Labour at the full council meeting being substantially amended by the Conservatives before being passed.

At that meeting, Coun Sanderson said: “Please don’t talk down local services, support them and support the people that work for us and do such a fantastic job.”