A trade union has warned that job cuts at the Environment Agency (EA) will adversely affect regulation of the waste management industry.
Frank Minal of the GMB Union said: “Over the last 10 years there has been a 50-100% increase in the waste sites that an environment officer is responsible for and already this has increased the pressure on them.
“Any additional cuts to the workforce will lead to those sites getting visited less often.”
Last month MRW reported that the EA expects to reduce its staff count by 1,700 in the next 12 months.
Minal said that the waste management industry is becoming increasingly complex with greater bureaucracy, which makes it harder to regulate the sector and prevent waste crime.
He added: “What the Agency really needs now is more staff, not less.”
Minal also said that responses to in-hours and out-of-hours emergencies could be compromised by the cuts, posing a greater risk to the environment.
In response to GMB, James Fulford, director of consultancy Eunomia, agreed that having fewer officers will make the EA’s enforcement task harder.
But he added: “The negative consequences of these cuts will also be financial.”
He said the success of the Waste Crime Taskforce, which managed to shut down more illegal waste sites than ever before in 2012/13, demonstrated that “more enforcement means more illegal sites are closed down.”
He also pointed out that the number of successful prosecutions actually fell in the same period.
Fulford said quality enforcement forces rogue operators who were previously dumping at illegal sites to use legal landfills. Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) then receives more landfill tax.
He claimed: “For each £1 that is cut from the EA’s budget this year, HMRC should expect to see £6 less landfill tax next year.”
- GMB also warned that EA job cuts will increase the risk of flooding and threaten the good management of water resources.