10/12/2016 00:01 GMT | Updated 10/12/2016 14:26 GMT

Councils To Get Tough On Fly-Tippers In Pre-Christmas Crackdown

Powers to seize and crush vehicles used by fly-tippers are being employed by councils across the country in a pre-Christmas crackdown.

Local authorities are also calling for a legal loophole, that means enforcement officers have to give some fly-tippers seven days written warning before inspecting them and seizing evidence, to be closed to tackle the problem.

It comes as councils report a significant rise in the "man with van" phenomenon, in which cold callers offer to dispose of household goods such as fridges and furniture for cash, and then fly-tip them.

The cost for councils of clearing up fly-tipping is almost £50 million across England, with the recorded incidents rising 6% in 2014/2015, the latest year for which figures are available, to 900,000 cases.

The powers to seize and destroy a vehicle, trailer or mobile plant and their contents if it is suspected of being used in a waste crime came in last year.

Councils have also been given powers to issue on-the-spot fines, or fixed penalty notices, of up to £400 for smaller scale fly-tipping offences.

The Local Government Association's environment spokesman Martin Tett said: "Councils are taking a zero-tolerance approach to fly-tipping and this means using every power at their disposal – including seizing and destroying vehicles used by the dumpers.

"At a time when councils face difficult choices about services in light of reducing budgets, they are having to spend a vast amount each year on tackling litter and fly-tipping.

"This is money that would be better spent on vital services such as filling potholes and caring for the elderly.

"Litter and fly-tipping is environmental vandalism – it's unpleasant, unnecessary and unacceptable."

He added: "Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting rats and other vermin."

He said the introduction of fixed penalty notices for fly-tipping was a step in the right direction, but councils also needed a faster and more effective legal system which meant fly-tippers were given hard-hitting fines for more serious offences.

And local authorities should be able to recoup all prosecution costs, and not be left out of pocket, he urged.