I speak as a former Cornwall councillor and as the Member representing Truro and Falmouth in Cornwall, where fly-tipping is a major concern, as it is in the other constituencies we have heard about in the debate. I regularly hold beach cleans and litter picks around the coastline and throughout the countryside—we are deeply saddened to see our beauty spots stained by the irresponsible dumping of household goods—and I thank my parish and town councils and the volunteers who take part every day. In Cornwall, it feels like it is in our DNA to pick up litter where we see it.
Fly-tipping is a significant blight on the environment. It is a source of pollution and a potential danger to public health, and it costs council tax payers vast sums every year. Every year, Cornwall Council spends an estimated £250,000 on clearing up waste that has been tipped around the duchy. It is no wonder that the people of Truro and Falmouth have had enough.
Unlike some who have spoken, I will not name our hotspots, and I hope that hon. Members will understand why. My hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall spoke about the national trend, but in Cornwall we have seen a decrease in our instances of fly-tipping since the pandemic. In 2018, we had just over 4,500 instances throughout the whole of Cornwall, while last year, we had just over 3,000. I am pleased to say that that is because we now have a Conservative council that is actually tackling the issue, and I thank everybody involved at the council—the officers and the councillors—for their incredible hard work.
The council’s strong joint-working relationship with the waste contractor means that it now has many individuals on the ground to help to gather evidence. The council has also trained town and parish councils on how to report instances of fly-tipping, ensuring that they provide sufficient information for cases to be investigated and that partner organisations are credible witnesses when they identify fly-tipping.
Council officers also undertake surveillance operations in known fly-tip hotspots, using camera equipment. The council successfully prosecuted a persistent fly-tipper in February 2022 following a surveillance operation—the prosecution resulted in fines and costs of £7,348—and further operations are being organised. Although that is positive progress, nobody should fly-tip at all, and that is why we still have much work to do.
I will not repeat the calls for the Government to act, because I know that we all feel the same way, but I support the calls from the National Farmers Union for effective punishments to deter criminals from dumping waste illegally. That could be achieved by developing further guidance so that effective punishments can be delivered when prosecuting, which would support our farmers and landowners. That would include raising awareness of offences that affect rural and coastal communities in particular, and working with those who bring cases to court to ensure that they make full use of the range of sentencing powers available to them.
In addition, I support the NFU’s calls for the development of a single reporting mechanism so that farmers and land managers have to report a fly-tipping incident only once. Currently, victims often need to report incidents to multiple authorities, which is frustrating and time-consuming for busy farmers. Such a mechanism would ensure that the correct authority is informed and that feedback is available following each report. I stress that I also support the call for increased fines, but I will let the Minister address that because I know that she has already heard the call from colleagues today.