COUNCILS insist they are using new Government powers to wage war on fly-tippers who are turning the region into a dumping ground.

Local authorities have been able to issue on-the-spot fines of £150 to £400 for those caught fly-tipping since May 2016 – instead of having to resort to often lengthy and costly court action.

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While a survey found councils across England issued more than 4,600 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) and collected £773,000 for fly-tipping in the first year of the crackdown, it suggested many of the region's authorities are failing to make use of new powers.

Following a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association, 43 per cent of councils in England said they had not issued any fly-tipping notices between May 2016 and May 2017.

They included all five authorities in the Tees Valley.

But council chiefs said last night the figures painted a confusing picture and FPNs have been added to their arsenal for dealing with illegal waste dumping – but if recorded as littering offences would not have shown up in the survey.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council said it has issued more than 100 FPNs in the last 12 months, including 14 of the new £400 fines.

Alec Brown, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: "These fines help us tackle the bigger cases of fly-tipping in the borough.

"Fly-tipping is a crime that can blight our neighbourhoods and we will not tolerate it."

He said the council's "tough stand" on fly-tipping included specialist teams of enforcement officers and street cleaners and preventative community initiatives.

Darlington Borough Council will hand out an FPN for littering, rather than fly-tipping, to suspects who attend an interview and accept responsibility but seek court action against others and publish details of those cases.

"We take fly-tipping very seriously and work hard to reduce its impact," said a spokesman.

"We are constantly reviewing our processes and may well issue FPNs for fly-tipping in the future, along with other options that may be available."

At Middlesbrough Council, the fines are seen as a deterrent and a quicker, more cost-effective way of tackling the problem than going to court.

Tracy Harvey, executive member for environment and commercial services, said: "Fly-tipping is utterly indefensible and we are fully committed to stamping it out.

"We welcome this new legislation with open arms."

However, concerns have been voiced that fly-tipping is becoming more prevalent since many councils began charging residents for disposing non-domestic rubbish as well as those unwilling to pay to dump commercial waste.

However, North councils seen to be making good use of the powers included Durham County Council, which issued 18 FPNs and collected £2,380 in resulting fines.

Its head of direct services, Oliver Sherratt, said: "We share our residents' disgust at fly-tipping in our beautiful county and this is why we take such a pro-active approach to preventing it and taking action against offenders."

The council deploys neighbourhood wardens and covert cameras to fly-tipping hotspots and, along with using the new FPNs, it continues to prosecute people who dump larger quantities of waste and can seize vehicles involved in fly-tipping.

"We also take very seriously our duty to educate people on their responsibility to look after their environment and will continue to do so alongside our enforcement role," added Mr Sherratt.

Just this week The Northern Echo reported that Hambleton District Council, which issued ten notices according to the figures, is installing cameras across the district after seeing instances of fly-tipping soar.

Stephen Watson, cabinet portfolio holder for waste services, said: "It has a major impact on the environment – it looks unsightly and presents a poor image to our visitors. The habitat of animals is also affected as well as the quality of life for residents."

All the authorities urged residents to report incidents of illegal waste to them for investigation.