'Zero Tolerance' needed on South West of England Fly Tipping as GMB study shows more than 50,000 incidents in 2019/20

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Local authorities need to up their game as GMB Union data shows less than half incidents resulted in a call out

A new study of the latest official data by GMB, the union for refuse and street cleaning workers, shows that the 30 councils in the South West of England took 14,956 actions to deal with 50,506 fly tipping incidents recorded in the region for 2019/20.

Actions on fly-tipping by councils include: warning letters, statutory notices, fixed penalty notices, formal cautions, stop and search, vehicle seizures, injunctions, prosecutions. Overall across the region councils took 14,956 actions. This is approximately three actions for every ten incidents across the region.

GMB is calling for a uniform policy, across the South West of England councils, of punishing cowboy builders identified fly-tipping to confiscate their vehicles. This would send the right message.

The study shows that in terms of the number of actions per fly tipping incidents there is a huge variation. The Forest of Dean, Torridge, Wiltshire and Exeter Councils all have more actions than fly-tipping incidents.  Somerset West & Taunton and Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Councils by contrast failed to record any actions against fly-tippers at all.

The councils who took most actions were the City of Bristol and Wiltshire County Council. At the other end of the scale, as well as the aforementioned were very low levels of action at Torbay (14), West Devon (16), South Hams (17) and South Somerset (18).

Set out in the table below are the figures for the 30 local authorities in the South West of England ranked by number of actions per fly-tipping incident.


Table: Fly-tipping incidents and actions reported by South West of England local authorities 2019-20.

Local Authority Total Fly Tipping Reported Incidents 2019/20 % on number of reported incident on previous year Number of Prosecutions Number of Actions Actions per reported incidents rate
South West 50506 -15% 80 14956 0.3
Forest of Dean 1190 59% 1 2050 1.72
Torridge   194 -18% 0 261 1.35
Wiltshire 2823 0% 6 2970 1.05
Exeter 823 -13% 0 823 1
Cheltenham 246 19% 0 212 0.86
Gloucester 1591 0% 47 1215 0.76
Mid Devon   570 0% 0 419 0.74
Cotswold 528 24% 0 320 0.61
Swindon   1504 5% 0 713 0.47
Dorset* 1870 15% 1 688 0.37
Bristol, City of 8655 11% 6 2449 0.28
Stroud   994 13% 1 275 0.28
Tewkesbury   403 -22% 2 103 0.26
North Devon   625 -2% 0 112 0.18
Cornwall 3657 -20% 3 615 0.17
South Gloucestershire  1536 -11% 5 245 0.16
East Devon 584 30% 0 89 0.15
North Somerset  1547 4% 0 184 0.12
Sedgemoor   947 -12% 2 112 0.12
Teignbridge   1536 53% 0 138 0.09
Plymouth 10933 -44% 6 797 0.07
West Devon   273 51% 0 16 0.06
South Hams   370 17% 0 17 0.05
Mendip   1497 -4% 0 59 0.04
South Somerset   561 -32% 0 18 0.03
Bath and North East Somerset 2169 20% 0 42 0.02
Torbay  741 0% 0 14 0.02
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole 1705 -42% 0 0 0
Somerset West and Taunton* 434 -32% 0 0 0
Isles of Scilly 0 n/a n/a n/a n/a


Justin Bowden, GMB Southern Regional Secretary, said: “Government and local councils have to be more proactive in dealing with fly-tipping incidents. The data for 2019/20 shows far too much variation in the numbers of actions councils take in response to fly-tipping incidents. Some councils take far too little action. Many councils need to up their game on dealing with fly-tipping and fly-tippers.

“There needs to be better education on the costs of dealing with the problem and how people can dispose of rubbish and unwanted items properly.  

“Councils must invest in easy to access recycling and disposal facilities for residents to use and offer accessible collection schemes for bulk items. Recent restrictions on using recycling centres due to the pandemic in terms of capacity and access without bookings need to be rolled back. They must not become permanent or make access to them more difficult.”

Ruth Brady, GMB Wales & South West Regional Secretary, said: “Councils have to firmly clamp down on fly-tipping by larger fines, investment in surveillance equipment and rigorous investigation of incidents and follow up action. Some councils have a poor record on this which encourages an attitude of impunity. A uniform policy, across the South West of England of punishing cowboy builders identified fly-tipping to confiscate their vehicles would send the right message. 

“We need a policy of zero tolerance with action against fly-tipping on all fronts at all times.” 


Media enquiries: GMB Press Office on 07866 441 656 or at

Notes to Editors:

Sources for Data are Defra and WasteDataFlow.
Fly-tipping returns for some local authorities may be missing, incomplete or found to contain errors during Defra's quality assurance process

The 2019/20 national totals are, as the figures are reported by the local authorities to WasteDataFlow and only include estimates for non-response and missing data.

A number of changes to local authorities came into force on the 1st April 2019.  They have been grouped to calculate the change % on 2018/20:

  • Dorset is now Weymouth and Portland, West Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, and East Dorset
  • Somerset West and Taunton is Taunton Deane and West Somerset