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Crime detection hit by short-termism

How many times do we hear claims that saving money in the short term brings more expense down the line?

Examples include a suggestion that a lack of health prevention schemes means added costs to the NHS, poor highways maintenance leads to damaging potholes and, in recent months, a failure to dredge rivers will haunt flooded communities for weeks.

And so it is with Eunomia’s latest report for the Environmental Services Association Educational Trust, Tackling Britain’s Dirty Secret. For every £1 the regulatory bodies spend tackling waste crime, says Eunomia, wider society benefits by £5.60. The opposite must therefore also be considered true: cutting budgets will only lead to costly problems such as fly-tipping or more illegal dumps.

But instead of ‘spending to save’, Defra has taken a knife to the budget of those shouldering the responsibility for tackling waste crime: the Environment Agency (EA). Defra’s spending on crime has been falling and 9% coming off the EA’s latest budget, as well as staff cuts of nearly 15%, can hardly help matters.

The intervention last week of the Sentencing Council in issuing guidance for the first time on environmental offences is timely and welcome. Last year, MRW reported how one criminal who ‘managed’ 57,000 tonnes of illegal material was fined £25,000. If that tonnage had gone legally to landfill, it would have cost the depositor more than £4m in tax. It is easy to see why some in the business think it makes economic sense to disregard the law.

Finally, I had the honour of chairing a discussion at the new Resource show in London this week - which is another way of clarifying that it was not this particular event whose organisers were criticised in this column last week for insisting our news reports carried extraneous but commercial information. Our reporter went unfettered to Resource, and we have carried news items on our website.

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