The Environment Agency has been criticised by industry figures after failing to hit its target for the closure of high-risk illegal waste sites, the agency also revealed it had failed to spend all of its waste crime budget according to BaleBid forum.
The EA annual report showed an end target of 196 for the closure of high-risk illegal waste sites. However, the agency only reduced the number of sites from 259 to 250. The report states: “Although this is not as big a reduction as we were aiming for, it is an improvement on performance compared to 2017-18.”*
The report says the EA “have secured additional funding to address specific priorities, for instance: a further £30 million for tackling waste crime over the period 2018-22, £10 million was also secured in the November 2018 Budget to cover the cost of landfill tax incurred in clearing waste from abandoned sites over the period from 2019-21.” The report also states: “There is a risk that we may struggle to use the additional funding effectively as delays in recruitment mean that we underspent the allocation for 2018-19. While these increases in funding mean our enforcement has been better funded in 2018-19, pressures to reduce our reliance on grant in aid mean that there is also an overall risk that there may be cuts in baseline funding which will reduce our ability to respond to the problems of illegal waste activity in future years.”**
Simon Ellin, Chief Executive of the Recycling Association said:
“One of the problems we have within our membership is that we are an overwhelmingly compliant industry but are blighted by the illegal operations of a small minority and it seems to be the nature of the business that we are all tarred with the same brush.
We are as committed as the agency to weed out these illegal operators to clear the way for our compliant operations, so it is disappointing that, despite the extra funding, they have been unable to recruit the staff they require. Let’s hope the funding is still available and they can actively recruit to meet their targets.”
An Environmental Services Association (ESA) spokesperson said:
“Progress has been far too slow in tackling waste crime. Work commissioned by ESA suggests that waste crime costs the UK at least £600m annually. It is therefore disappointing to see that the funding secured in recent years has not been spent.”
In the report the EA says: “additional staffing is now largely in place, and we expect to see the benefits come through in 2019/20 and beyond.”***
*&***Page 16, **Page 36, of the Environment Agency Annual report