COUNCILLORS in Fife have approved a new strategy designed to tackle illegal dumping, littering, dog-fouling and graffiti over the next two years.

Fife Council’s Environmental Vandalism Strategy aims to address problems that currently cost Scottish local authorities around £78 million a year, and continue to blight communities across the region. 

Members of the environment and protective services sub-committee agreed the new document, which suggests the situation can only be improved through a combination of enforcement and prevention, partnership working and engaging with local communities through education and awareness campaigns.

A Citizen Charter will also be developed to maximise public ‘buy-in’, encourage reporting of incidents and raise awareness of the support available to communities. 

Councillor Ross Vettraino OBE, committee convener, described the strategy as one of “zero tolerance” and a statement of how the council will deploy its resources and use powers available to it to combat vandalism across the Kingdom.  

“It is a complex multi-faceted problem, which is embedded in today’s society,” he said. 

“It is occasioned by irresponsible people, who do not care about the environment and care even less about those with whom they share it and who deface the environment for their own selfish convenience or to maximise financial gain and, in the course of so doing, subject their fellow human beings to living with the effects of their environmental abuse and the expense of removing it. 

“Central to the strategy is the swift removal of its effects; wherever it may occur; the implementation of effective policing methods, which will meaningfully utilise the available technology and will penalise the vandals whenever they are identified."

The strategy comes at a time when the procurator fiscal for Tayside, Central and Fife called on local authorities to do more to report illegal dumping after it emerged only a tiny fraction of cases were reported properly to prosecutors.

At last Thursday's meeting, Sineidin Corrins revealed that the Crown Office and Prosecution Service (COPFS) received just 227 reports in relation to fly-tipping across Scotland between March 2017 and March 2021.

There have been just 57 reports relating to littering legislation recorded in the whole of Tayside, Central and Fife since January 1, 2017.

Describing the number of reports as “extremely low”, Ms Corrins told councillors that prosecutors had a range of considerations prior to pursuing a prosecution, and that alternatives such as warning letters, fiscal fines and compensation orders were often available. 

However, she said the need for corroboration – both in terms of whether a crime was committed and who committed it – was key, while the fact that many prosecutions are time-barred six months after the date of offence has also hampered bringing those responsible to account.    

“There is clearly an issue in terms of the quality of reporting," she added.

“Quality sounds like a very negative reflection but it’s awareness of the evidential and legal requirements and being able to present that to a significant level in terms of the detail and in terms of the different elements required (for prosecution).

“If we’re only getting these small numbers of reports and we’re unable to go ahead because of insufficient evidence or other factors, then we could improve that in terms of training, in terms of feedback, and that would allow the council to report the best quality reports it can do. 

“Councils need the tools to be able to gather and investigate and get the information they require, and then they need to know what they need to investigate, what they need to include in reports, what they need to highlight and what they need help with.

“It’s not a case where we’re saying to councils, ‘No you don’t have enough, don’t bother reporting it to us’ and therefore we’re masking the problem. The opposite is true.

“I have the tools to prosecute, but the number of reports we receive is extremely low and I think we have to look earlier in the chain to find out why that is.”