The number of abandoned vehicles has soared by almost a third in England and Wales in just three years and is likely to rise, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.
Research from the association has shown a 28% rise in illegally dumped cars from 2000/1 to 2002/3 equivalent to an average rise of 22% for each council.
According to LGA advisor Julian Lucroft the single main reason for the increase was the drop in scrap metal prices during that period. Increases in car production and use had also added to the problem.
The LGA research found that urban communities were the worst hit. London boroughs had the highest average number of abandoned vehicles reported with 6,589 per authority.
Contrastingly, district councils reported an average of 1,060 vehicles each.
In the same period, the cost to councils of dealing with abandoned vehicles rose by a quarter from £27.2 million in 2000/1 to £33.9m in 2002/3.
The LGA predicts the problem will get worse due to increased treatment and disposal costs brought about by the End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) Directive. The directive requires that ELVs be treated to new standards and last-owners could be hampered with new costs when taking their old car to an authorised treatment facility.
Plus, many authorities are not ready to comply with the directive. The report found that 55% of local authorities believed their contractors were ready for the ELV Directive, 20% were not ready and 25% didnt know.
Additionally, existing legislation does not help track down abandoned vehicle perpetrators. Because most vehicles left on estates, car parks, roads and verges are unlicensed, it is difficult for councils to track down perpetrators and take them to court under current laws. The exception is London where special legislation allows boroughs a way of tackling the problem.
The 1972 Greater London Powers Act allows local authorities to track down the last registered vehicle owner for information, which helps to bring prosecutions against those who abandon vehicles.
The LGA is pushing for councils around the country to have powers to prosecute and is currently working with the Government to ensure that this occurs.
LGA waste and environmental management executive chairman Councillor Ken Manton said: The vast majority of abandoned cars are unlicensed which makes it virtually impossible for local authorities to track down and prosecute people who dump their clapped-out cars.
At the moment a special piece of legislation that applies only to London has allowed boroughs in the capital a way of tackling the problem. The LGA is working with the Government to ensure that all local authorities are able to stamp out this scourge.
He added: The pest of abandoned vehicles in our local communities is threatening to become a plague.
Illegally dumped cars are much more than just an eyesore. They are breeding grounds for arson and vandalism, while broken glass and leaking chemicals are a hazard for children and pets. They also contribute to a run-down appearance that can increase crime and the fear of crime.
Manton said that while local authorities were co-operating with the police and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to tackle the problem as swiftly and efficiently as they could, the ELV Directive could create extra hassles.
There is a danger that the EU directive on ELVs, which will lead to rising disposal costs for unwanted vehicles, will further increase the challenge for local authorities. Councils could find themselves battling to stay ahead of a wave of abandoned old bangers littering our estates and neighbourhoods. u