I’m going to talk rubbish.
Well, what else would you expect from a politician, some may say!
But no, this is actually a serious subject, one that generates hundreds of calls to both my office and Barnsley Council every year, inspires rage and despair amongst local people, and highlights the best and the worst of human behaviour.
I’m talking about fly tipping – the dumping of rubbish illegally.
I’ve long held the view that fly tipping is a deeply selfish and anti-social activity and it’s one that drives my constituents – and me – up the wall.
When I’m out and about across the town far too often I see the tell-tale signature of the fly tipper: decomposing bin bags, smelly mattresses, broken furniture, abandoned tyres, defunct fridges.
This selfish dumping of waste is more than just an eyesore; it brings serious health risks and generally drags down the sense of pride in our local community.
In the Central ward area of Barnsley alone we have seen a 41.8% increase in reported fly-tipping incidents from 2013 to 2014. In one six month period the area saw 516 reports of this illegal activity, prompting Barnsley Council to channel additional resources into tackling the blight.
But this isn’t just a local issue. Nationally, there were 852,000 incidents of illegally dumped waste last year – the highest number ever recorded.
A recent investigation showed that councils in England and Wales are now spending £45.2 million on the problem every year – enough to pay for 2,000 extra nurses!
A number of people have raised this with me locally, so I asked Barnsley Council what they are doing about it.
Unfortunately, the cuts from central government have meant they’ve had to scale back on some of their directly funded activities. However, they are trying to work with local community groups to encourage people to take personal responsibility for the areas they live in.
This has resulted in the ‘Love Where You Live’ initiative, which has already seen volunteers give over 12,000 hours to help improve their local area. This ranges from Community Clear Up days to gardening clubs and allotment groups – anything that allows people to actively take pride in and improve their local area.
Fly tipping can result in fines of up to £50,000 or five years imprisonment. However, it’s difficult for councils to get the evidence they need to support a prosecution. But even with this obstacle, Barnsley Council have still managed to double the number of prosecutions for fly-tipping in the past year.
You can help increase that number by reporting instances of fly tipping. Use the online form on the council’s website: www.barnsley.gov.uk
If you know the person tipping the waste call 01226 772468 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fly tipping is a scourge – let’s do all we can to stamp it out.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Chronicle on Friday 21st August 2015.