'Report it if you see a fly-tipper'
RESIDENTS will be urged to report their neighbours and colleagues for fly-tipping to help offset council cuts to the team which investigates environmental crime.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has agreed to scale back cuts to its environmental crime unit after a backlash from councillors who say it is one of the authority's most important services.
It now plans to cut the team's funding by £50,000 – a significant concession on proposed £191,000 cuts which would have wiped out the environmental crime team.
A further £75,000 will be saved, with the loss of three jobs, by merging the management of CCTV and environmental crime.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
It means the council will still investigate reports of fly-tipping, dumping of trade waste and untidy land, as well as clearing it up.
But the service will be slower, and 'proactive' projects like crackdowns and campaigns in hotspot areas will be scrapped. Now the authority is to extend its high-profile 'Spot the Cheater' campaign, which urges residents to report benefit fraud, to include environmental crime.
Councillor Andy Platt, cabinet member for green enterprises and clean city, said: "We'll still respond and we'll still investigate.
"The message is that we need to get people to report these things, especially if they can identify the perpetrators. It's called environmental crime for a reason – these people are cheating the city."
Figures show the environmental crime unit was asked to intervene 2,933 times in 2012 – up from 2,366 a year earlier.
Almost 60 per cent of its work is dealing with untidy land or dumped rubbish with more than 1,500 calls a year.
Cuts to the environmental crime team are part of £782,000 savings, which also include controversial plans to significantly scale back CCTV monitoring.
The authority is consulting 19 job cuts as part of the savings but has not confirmed how many environmental crime jobs will go.
Savings will be made by merging some responsibilities of the environmental crime team with other departments, including road workers and Local Matters teams.
Paul Breeze, pictured left,chairman of Hanley One residents' association and an unaffiliated councillor, said: "Not a week goes by where I don't have to contact the unit.
"I'm disappointed it's going to be reduced but I have a sense of relief that it isn't being cut altogether."
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport, said: "The unit was never set up to make income, it's about keeping the city clean.
"We said we didn't want to lose this and officers have come back with a slightly smaller team that is better integrated with other services.
"Highways, grounds staff and environmental crime will work together. We are reducing it and we are not going to be as proactive, but nobody wants to see the team lost."