FOR too long fly-tippers have blighted Barnsley and although figures show it’s still a huge issue, there’s a massively positive piece of legislation on its way which will – hopefully – finally help address the matter.

Thanks to a co-produced plan from both Barnsley Council and the town’s army of litter-picking volunteers who’ve rightly become tired of the borough’s state, tougher fines will be handed to anyone caught fly-tipping after ambitious plans were announced to significantly clamp down on offenders and clean up its image.

It’s proven to be a costly scourge, too: instances of tipping cost taxpayers in the town £265,000 in the last financial year alone and more than £700m across the country.

Documents released this week show 1,225 fixed penalty notices were handed out for ‘environmental’ offences in Barnsley – which includes everything from discarding cigarette ends to large-scale tipping – while seven people were prosecuted at court and 11 vehicles involved in dumping waste were seized.

However, it’s not enough: seven prosecutions is quite frankly a joke when you see there were more than 4,000 records lodged with the authorities.

A two-tiered approach to fly-tipping fines will now be adopted which will see a £400 penalty for between one and five bags’ worth of waste left, while five or above will climb to £1,000.

Graffiti cases will see fines double from £100 to £200, while householders’ punishments for allowing illegal waste carriers to take rubbish away will also double from £200 to £400.

Dropping cigarette ends and failing to pick up dog fouling – which account for the majority of cases in Barnsley – will both remain at the current £100 level.

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But as ever, it’s catching those responsible that’s the hardest part. It’s all well and good increasing fines and sending out stern, ‘zero-tolerance’ statements, but do fly-tippers really care? My assumption is ‘no, they do not’, because they’re the dregs of society who have absolutely no thought for anyone.

The community’s the key in this battle: they’re the eyes and ears and are integral in reporting anything suspicious, whether it’s a registration plate or a person.

One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the report, which will be discussed by ruling cabinet members on Wednesday, is anything to do with those who fail to pay their fines having been caught.

It’s fantastic that the community’s played such an important role in this new legislation, but as we’ve seen many times before it’s magistrates who are often the final piece in the tough-to-crack jigsaw in securing a rare conviction against a tipper.

When the council’s staff have sifted through waste, trawled CCTV and built up a bullet-proof case, some tea-quaffing magistrate thinks it’s appropriate to dish out a paltry fine that’s allowed to be paid back at a fiver a week.

It’s galling for all concerned, so perhaps it would have been wise to discuss the plan with the judicial system to see if anything could be done from their end.

Council staff – particularly the ’Safer Communities’ department that’s been responsible for trying to solve the issue – have been brilliant and deserve no end of credit for doing their best, so let’s hope this plan finally results in a significant reduction in the town’s ballooning fly-tipping case rate.