Fly-tipping almost doubles in Falkirk Council area as staff fears raised

Fly-tipping in the Falkirk Council area almost doubled last year, while staff shortages and social distancing left the service unable to cope after years of budget cuts.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 2:54 pm
Picture Michael Gillen. Fly tipping and rubbish stock photo.

Fly-tipping across the area increased by 91 per cent, rising from 2,101 in 2019/20 to 4,013 in 2020/21, a report for Falkirk Council’s scrutiny committee revealed.

It shows that while Falkirk usually matches other local authorities’ performance, there was a dramatic fall during the lockdown period.

This report compares badly with neighbouring West Lothian, where fly-tipping complaints have plunged over the last three months.

The report says that more people being at home throughout the pandemic led to large amounts of household waste being deposited in and around litter bins, which only added to the problem. A Keep Scotland Beautiful audit found that several sites had levels of litter that were much higher than usual throughout the pandemic. However, not all of the service’s woes can be attributed to Covid.

The report also shows a “clear correlation” between service budget reductions and fewer sites recording an acceptable cleansing rating.

In 2015/16 £300,000 was cut from the service’s budget; in 2016/17 a further £200,000; and in 2019/20 another £300,000. Those are the equivalent of 16 full-time members of staff, although no redundancies were made.

This year’s budget did allocate an additional £50,000 to help with the problem of removing fly-tipping from private land where no landowner details are available – but the report highlights that next year’s will almost certainly be looking for more savings to be made.

Looking to the future, however, the report is hopeful that technology will play a part in making up for the loss of staff. Bin sensors are being piloted in various rural locations. These tell the council how full the bin is, its temperature and location and whether it is upright or not. The real-time information allows the service to track what’s happening in each location so that staff can be employed more efficiently.

The service hopes that the data will build up a picture of littering and fly-tipping that will mean resources can be used more effectively, with targeted journeys helping to cut their carbon emissions.