Litter patrol wardens could crackdown on West Lothian fly-tipping

Council chiefs have been urged to hire private contractors to target persistent dog fouling and fly-tippers with hefty fines.

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Livingston Conservative councillor Alison Adamson suggested following neighbouring Midlothian council, which agreed in August to investigate hiring private enforcers.

But there were concerns that similar teams in other parts of the UK have done little to actually reduce the problems, with the SNP suggesting the council should instead invest in more in-house enforcement officers.

All too familiar: Scenes like this can be found across West LothianAll too familiar: Scenes like this can be found across West Lothian
All too familiar: Scenes like this can be found across West Lothian
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Clearing up fly-tipping costs West Lothian around £50,000 a quarter and takes up 80% of the time of the Neighbourhood Environment Teams.

The council hired more staff earlier this year to help with fly-tipping clear-ups as well as the uplift of hundreds of bags of rubbish collected by local volunteers.

Under Midlothian proposals private firms could be handed contracts to provide the enforcers, in a scheme similar to the private parking attendants which replaced traffic wardens in some local authorities in Scotland. Reports on how a scheme would work will come back to that council. Many English councils use private contractors.

Enforcers call: Councillor Alison AdamsonEnforcers call: Councillor Alison Adamson
Enforcers call: Councillor Alison Adamson

At a meeting of the full council, Councillor Adamson suggested West Lothian should do the same, adding: “this work can be achieved at zero cost to the local authorities and, in turn, has the potential of providing more capacity to our hard‐pressed environmental health service for delivering specialist and technical public health and safety duties.”

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Private contractors provide a no, or low, cost alternative because they earn income and profit from fines imposed for dog fouling and littering or fly-tipping. It’s argued that hefty fines can serve as a greater deterrent than current statutory fines.

At Holyrood moves are in play to hike statutory penalties for fly-tipping, supported by national bodies such as Zero Waste Scotland.

Fly-tippers are a blightFly-tippers are a blight
Fly-tippers are a blight

Councillor Adamson said of her proposal: “It’s not replacing council staff. It is adding to their armoury.”

But the call for privatised enforcement was met with scepticism by other parties. The SNP rejected it outright, suggesting that the council should beef up staffing in its own enforcement teams.

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Councillor Frank Anderson, for the SNP, said: “We are being buried as a council by fly-tipping and the suggestion is take no action. This is a call to action. To do something rather than nothing.”

Labour had previously considered external contracts as part of council cost cutting measures. The option was abandoned because it would have meant service restructuring, redeployment, or potential redundancies.

Fines could help halt fly-tipping.Fines could help halt fly-tipping.
Fines could help halt fly-tipping.

The council has since pursued a policy of education and enforcement, though this is restrained by staff numbers.

Councillor Tom Conn, Labour’s executive councillor for the Environment, raised concerns about how effective private contractors would be, saying: “Whilst authorities in England can demonstrate a significant increase in fines issued and income in collection terms, none have been able to demonstrate a decrease in littering and fly-tipping to benefit communities.”

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He put forward an amendment suggesting the council “take no action at this time but instruct officers to submit a report to the Environment PDSP should Midlothian Council engage and transfer their statutory duties to a private contractor and the effectiveness of such an arrangement.”

Labour’s amendment won after a series of votes.

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