FRUSTRATED councillors are disappointed with the "slow progress" made in cracking down on environmental crimes such as fly-tipping and dog-fouling.

Tougher enforcement has long been promised by Fife Council but it'll be another three months before they decide on a new approach.

There have been high-profile incidents of illegal dumping of waste at Townhill Loch recently, as well as sickening graffiti in Dunfermline Cemetery, and the environmental vandalism strategy will also tackle dog-fouling, littering and abandoned cars.

Councillor Ross Vettraino, convener of the environment and protective services sub-committee, said: "Enforcement and fines, yes that would help a lot, but our (monitoring of the issue) is so poor just now that it’s almost non-effective.”

He has championed a new environmental vandalism strategy for more than a year and a motion expressing disappointment with the "slow progress" was backed by him and all of the other committee members.

Cllr David Barratt said: "I think some progress has been made but this is not where I thought we would be at this point.

"Despite COVID, I think the public would have expected us to make more progress than we have."

The council allocated £50,000 to help develop and implement the new approach and a draft strategy was presented to councillors last week.

Nigel Kerr, head of protective services, said improvements would only be made if there was "behavioural change" and added: "I'd like to stress the council cannot deal with this in isolation.

"An important element of this new approach will be ensuring that every person in Fife takes responsibility for being part of the solution."

There will now be a public consultation on the draft strategy and all members of the council will be invited to two workshops in December, with the finalised strategy to go before councillors for approval in February.

However, Cllr Dave Dempsey dismissed the draft as "10 pages of council-speak waffle” that was lacking in detail. 

He added: “This isn’t good enough. The public has been calling for action for ages.”

A report to the committee said communication between the various council departments that deal with environmental vandalism was good but that better data, information-gathering and analysis of problem areas would be needed.

It also said that £15,000 spent on movable CCTV last year had been wasted. Only one fixed penalty notice was issued based on CCTV evidence, while vandalism and poor-quality images also rendered the cameras largely ineffective. 

Officials aim to “strike a balance between prevention and enforcement” amid a growing perception among Fifers that not enough is being done to punish offenders.

Nigel Kerr, head of protective services, told councillors: "Where there's evidence of environmental offending, particularly where there's criminal intent or for commercial gain, it's really important that a more robust and pragmatic approach to environmental enforcement is implemented."

He said that environmental vandalism was not only a serious issue in Fife and the estimated direct and indirect costs of dealing with illegal dumping and littering in Scotland was £78 million a year.

Mr Kerr added: "And this doesn't include the costs associated with dog-fouling, graffiti, fly-positing and abandoned vehicles."