The government does not require councils to record how quickly fly-tips are removed. Prior to Labour being elected to lead Croydon Council in May 2014 information on this factor was not collected.
In 2014 the incoming Labour council began publishing monthly statistics. As well as the number of reported fly-tips, covered in our previous FactCheck, the number of fly-tips cleared within 48 hours was reported. The performance target was to clear at least 80% within 48 hours.
With a time-related performance indicator it is necessary to know how the start and finish times are defined. In this case rubbish is dumped by the wrong-doer, some time later it is seen by members of the public and at some point after that it is reported to the council, for example via the MyCroydon App.
Later still, during normal working hours, the contractor is notified. This is when the clock starts. The contractor clears the fly-tip and stops the clock. Thus, a fly-tip notified to the council late on a Friday might not get reported to Veolia until Monday. A fly-tip cleared just within the 48 hours as measured in this way might be almost five days from the time it was reported and much longer if it is not reported promptly.
The advantage of this methodology is information is collected and reported by the contractor. The disadvantage is it doesn’t reflect the situation as perceived by the public and any council inefficiency does not show up in the figures.
Turning to performance, after a short initial period the target was met. A deterioration was seen in late 2015 such that it was then not achieved for a period of about a year but since early 2017 the performance has been consistently achieved.
The council also targeted issuing 50 Fixed Penalty Notices (‘FPNs’) per month for fly-tipping offences. This was later modified to 50 FPNs per month for all environmental offences. Performance here has had its ups and downs but has generally been achieved and often exceeded.
However, many of these FPNs are for littering rather than fly-tipping. In 2017 less than four hundred FPNs were issued for what was identified as fly-tipping. Of these more than thirty were for waste deposited at a recycling centre and almost two hundred for black bags on the footway. Less than thirty were for items such as builders’ waste, mattresses or furniture that most people recognise as a fly-tipping eyesore.
The bottom line is not the targets, it is whether what is being achieved is making a difference. Given the around 1500 fly-tips every month, an FPN is issued for perhaps every fifty fly-tips, insufficient to be a deterrent as evidenced by the steady increase in fly-tips since Labour came to power in Croydon.
Clearing them within a certain time is laudable but given the steady increase in the number of fly-tips the number not cleared within target has not improved. Is it any surprise that the people of Croydon continue to complain of dirty streets?