Members of the region’s environment and protective services sub committee backed the development of a new Environmental Vandalism Strategy for the Kingdom on Thursday, but left officers in no doubt of their disappointment at the length of time taken to get to this point.
Consultation will now be held with the public, key groups and partners such as Police Scotland on what the proposed strategy should focus on, while all members of the council will also be invited to two workshops in December to consider the results.
That will then help shape a finalised strategy which is expected to go before councillors for approval in February, supported by a business case for any extra resources identified.
Inverkeithing Councillor David Barratt was one of several committee members to highlight their frustration, with reports of fly-tipping and littering continuing to come in on a regular basis.
“I think some progress has been made but this is not where I thought we would be at this point,” he noted, referring to a draft strategy outline document produced by officials for Thursday’s meeting.
Fellow west FIfe councillor Dave Dempsey has also branded the document “10 pages of council-speak waffle” lacking in detail.
“This isn’t good enough,” he insisted.
“The public has been calling for action for ages.”
Environmental vandalism - a term which encompasses the likes of illegal dumping, littering, dog fouling, graffiti and abandoned vehicles - costs Scottish local authorities around £50 a million a year.
The issue has particularly come to the fore in Fife, where there have been some high-profile examples of illegal dumping and fly-tipping - especially in rural areas.
Yet only a tiny proportion of reported cases end up in a fine or prosecution.
The committee heard how £15,000 was spent on movable CCTV last year in a bid to combat environmental vandalism, but only one fixed penalty notice was issued based on CCTV evidence.
Vandalism and poor quality images also rendered the CCTV largely ineffective.
Officials drawing up the strategy say it will aim to “strike a balance between prevention and enforcement”, amid a growing perception among Fifers that not enough is being done to punish offenders.
Even committee convener Councillor Ross Vettraino noted: “Enforcement and fines are fine but our policing in Fife is so poor just now that it’s almost non-effective.”
Nigel Kerr, head of protective services, acknowledged the challenges in relation to enforcement but stressed that a key plank of the strategy will be encouraging everyone to play their part.
“An important element of this new approach will be ensuring that every person in Fife, whether a resident, business, partner, or employee, takes responsibility for being part of the solution,” he concluded.
“The council cannot deal with this issue in isolation.
“Everyone needs to be empowered to report any environmental offending within their neighbourhoods to ensure that any issues are reported as quickly as possible, intelligence can be gathered to support appropriate enforcement action where appropriate and that the item(s) can be removed without delay.”