Are we there yet? Measuring success in reducing flytipping


By - Thursday 30th April, 2015

Robert Ward has been keeping an eye on the flytipping statistics, and has found somewhat promising results


Image by Croydon Council, used with permission.

There’s one easy thing about setting out to climb Everest. When it’s all over you know whether you succeeded. Either the team will have stood on the top of the world and got back home safely or they won’t. Measuring the success of the project is clear and easy.

There may be other objectives, like being under budget, or being the first to achieve the feat in some novel way, but for a typical climbing expedition these are secondary. Too many un-prioritised objectives are counterproductive. If everything is important then nothing is important.

Most projects do not have such easy clarity. As I have previously pointed out, ‘Don’t Mess With Croydon’ and combating fly-tipping do not. The council wants to “make Croydon the cleanest and greenest borough in London through a programme of education, enforcement and making it easy for residents to report issues.”

Money will be spent, good things will happen, but whether we have succeeded will remain a matter for debate

Sounds grand, but as success criteria, this leaves a lot to be desired. How will we know that we are the cleanest and greenest borough in London? Is there a league table somewhere?

At a lower level, how will we know that we have beaten flytipping, or at least made significant progress? Without clarity, money will be spent, good things will happen, but whether we have succeeded will remain a matter for debate.

Adequate performance measures can usually be found. It is even possible that they were, because sometimes project teams chose not to publish them. But from the point of view of the general public, how might we judge fly-tipping performance?

A sustained fall in the number of reported incidents should indicate we have succeeded

Two of the targets on the council’s dashboard are numbers of prosecutions and Fixed Penalty Notices issued. These are largely determined by how much effort the council puts into enforcement. Reduce manpower and there will be fewer of both. No joy there, then.

Our best indicator is the number of reported incidents. High numbers here can, in the short term, be attributed to better reporting, but longer term this is harder to argue. A sustained fall in the number of reported incidents should indicate we have succeeded. A weakness is that it might be argued that a continuing high number of incidents could be the result of people getting used to cleaner streets and so becoming less tolerant of tips. So not perfect, but the best we can do.

Turning to the latest fly-tipping statistics for February 2015, available on the Council’s web site, these still look promising although little has changed recently. The number of fly-tips cleared within 48 hours, and the FPNs issued, are above target. However, the number of reported fly-tips remains stubbornly high. The jury is perhaps still out, but time is passing. Unless something changes soon, we will need to countenance the possibility that things are not working out as we might have hoped. If it were me, I would be dusting off my contingency plan right now.

I am determined to catch a flytipper

At this time we, the public, should also be asking ourselves what we should be doing. Much good work is undoubtedly being done for which I applaud the Council, but we are part of the team too. So if you care about Croydon, and like me believe that it is up to us as much as it is up to the Council, take a look at the good things which you can sign up to on the Council’s website.

Or make up your own contribution. Here are mine. Each time I go for a walk I pick up and recycle some small items of litter. A few discarded Red Bull cans and plastic packages may not change the world, but it makes me feel better that I have moved it a tiny step in the right direction.

Secondly, I am determined to catch a flytipper. I just missed one recently when I couldn’t read the registration of the unmarked white van but one day someone, and hopefully more than one will get a Fixed Penalty Notice, assisted by me.

Flytipping happens quickly, probably from a van, so you need to be alert, but the registration and a description of the van should be enough. Anything more is a bonus. A photograph is great but don’t put yourself at risk to get it. Report what you have by telephone to the dedicated fly-tipping hotline on 020 8604 7000 or email Councillor King informs me that public spirited Croydonians have already started to make a difference here. Let’s build on that.

However or wherever you think you can help, let’s make this work. Otherwise prepare for sad-faced Tory Councillors pointing at street-corner mattresses come the next Council elections, mimicking their Labour counterparts from 2014. None of us wants that endless four-yearly tableau to be recycled again.

Pun intended.

Robert Ward

Robert Ward

Engineer and project manager specialised in helping businesses make better strategic decisions and improve safety, quality and effectiveness. Conservative Party Councillor representing Selsdon and Addington Village on Croydon Council. He tweets as @moguloilman.

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