A trade union has warned that Falkirk will become “the dumping ground of Scotland” as the team that investigates fly-tipping is given redundancy notices.
Unison the union said it also has concerns about the legality of Falkirk Council’s decision, made last December, to scrap the small team of environmental enforcement officers.
It is understood members of the team have been served with redundancy notices and the service will cease to exist from August 31 this year.
Unison is calling on Falkirk councillors to rethink the decision, describing it as a “nonsensical” cut that will actually cost more in the long run.
Janet Robertson, the union’s branch secretary, said: “You have to question the thinking around this decision.
“Doing away with what has been a major deterrent to fly-tipping gives a open invitation to fly-tippers to come to Falkirk. The idea that this will save money or make an improvement to the environment is nonsensical.
“Rather than discourage and penalise fly-tippers if will encourage people to come to Falkirk, fly-tip and get away with it.
“We will end up paying out more money cleaning up after fly-tippers – not to mention the impact on the environment.”
The union said it is challenging the council on the process of the redundancies.
Regional organiser David O’Connor said: “We will look to challenge the council decision to issue redundancy notices.
“We are not convinced these are true redundancies and we are looking at a legal assessment on what’s being proposed.
“We also are uncertain if these redundancies are justifiable, as there is little firm detail from the council how this gap may be covered in the future or that the proposals will achieve the savings quoted.”
The staff concerned provide various services that include investigating fly-tipping, issuing fixed penalty notices and dealing with dangerous dogs.
Mr O’Connor said: “These are services that the council must deliver, for the citizens of Falkirk.
“It is a really ill-conceived idea – the surrounding local authorities have retained or looked to strengthen their workforces in this area.”
The union is also critical about the lack of detail in the council’s proposals about how exactly the services will continue to be provided.
The council has said that it will still have the authority to issue fixed penalty notices once the team has been axed.
Mr O’Connor said: “That part is true – but what they haven’t said is that there is no-one with the time and resources to do it.”
Ms Robertson added that the union had written to all the political leaders on Falkirk Council, asking for their position and their thoughts on the redundancies.
“We want to make the public aware of what’s happening and would hope they join us in the call for this decision to be revisited,” she said.
Photographs, all taken last week, show fly-tipping once again on a country road near Slamannan, which was forced to close last month due to the volume of rubbish; fly-tipping near Bo’ness; and bags of rubbish that were dumped near the River Avon.
Unison said the pictures show fly-tipping is “an ongoing problem in the Falkirk area”.
A spoksperson added: “There is clearly a requirement to deter and investigate fly-tipping by Falkirk Council for environmental protection, public health and safety reasons.”
The decision to scrap the environmental enforcement team was made in December as part of a review of the council’s waste services, which included charging £25 a year for brown bin collections; reintroducing a £35 charge for special uplifts; and reducing opening hours at the council’s recycling centres.
A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “The decision to remove the environmental enforcement team was carefully considered and based on evidence. The data illustrated that less than 5% of fly-tipping incidents resulted in a fixed penalty notice being issued because of the challenges around identifying those responsible.
“In light of this the conclusion reached was that the £150,000 cost of delivering this service did not represent value for money.
“Moving forward, Falkirk Council will continue to encourage the reporting of fly-tipping from the public, and collect items deposited on public land. Additionally, we will retain officers authorised to issue fixed penalty notices where evidence allows.
“Given this data there is limited evidence to support the claims being made by Unison.
“With regards to the redundancy notices, the council is doing everything it can to support the individual employees.
“Since the decision in December officers have undertaken all appropriate consultations with trade unions and the employees to assist them during this difficult time.”