Figures released by the Environment Agency (EA) have shown its waste crime budget increased by 3% during the past year, but spending remains £2.6m below the 2011-12 level.
In 2015-16, spending on waste crime stood at just over £14.8m compared with around £14.4m in the previous year. But spending in 2011-12 was £17.4m and has been steadily declining as Defra’s budget was cut back for successive years.
The upturn comes after the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA) were among those lobbying for more resources.
In November 2015, the then chancellor George Osborne announced that extra money would be diverted from the Landfill Communities Fund to tackle waste crime.
In his farewell announcement at RWM, EA deputy director of illegals and waste Mat Crocker said it was a “formidable stunt” that an extra £33m over five years to fight crime had been secured, and he praised the ESA and CIWM for their help.
The EA has also revealed an increase in successful closure of illegal waste sites.
CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “These are encouraging figures, and the CIWM particularly welcomes the significant progress made by the EA on tackling waste crime and illegal sites.
“This success underlines the importance of ensuring that we have an adequately resourced regulator, and the positive impact of the additional funding that has been made available to the EA by Government in the past 18 months to address this problem.”
Phil Conran, director at 360 Environmental, said: “This is encouraging, but the statistics show that illegal activity is still a huge problem and needs more than just extra enforcement.
“There is clearly a need for stronger controls on those who want to handle waste – such as a more onerous waste carrier’s licence regime and penalties for waste producers whose waste is illegally managed. Many waste producers are simply unaware of their responsibilities.”
Defra is facing a 30% budget cut from its current programme and administration budget for 2015-16 of £1.7bn.
It is not known whether the Government will continue with Osborne’s spending plans. The new chancellor, Philip Hammond, is to outline his priorities on 23 November in his first autumn statement.