Headlines: May 21st, 2004

The number of vehicles abandoned in England and Wales has gone up by almost a third in the last three years and local government leaders are warning that it is set to rise even further. Research from the Local Government Association says the increase is the equivalent of an average rise of 22 per cent in illegal car dumping for each local council.The figures show an overall increase of 28 per cent in the number of dumped cars from the year 2000 -2001 to 2002-2003. Urban communities are the worst hit and the London boroughs had the highest average number of abandoned vehicles reported put at 6,589 per authority. The average for district councils was 1,060. In the same three-year period, the cost to councils of dealing with abandoned vehicles rose by a quarter from just over 27 million pounds to almost 34 million. The LGA is predicting that the problem will get worse because of the increased costs of treatment and disposal of unwanted cars brought about by the EU directive on End of Life Vehicles.

The association says that as most of the vehicles abandoned on estates, car parks, roads and verges are unlicensed, it is difficult for local authorities to track down those responsible and to take them to court under current laws. A special piece of legislation – applying to London only – has given boroughs in the capital a way of tackling the problem. Now the LGA is working with the government to ensure all local authorities are able to act on the problem.

Ken Manton, who chairs the LGA’s waste and environmental management executive, said dumped cars were breeding grounds for arson and vandalism, while broken glass and leaking chemicals were a hazard for children and pets. The abandoned vehicles also contributed to a run-down appearance that increased crime and the fear of crime.

The EU directive would lead to rising disposal costs for unwanted vehicles and would further increase the challenge for local authorities. This would be a significant additional budget pressure that would have to be accounted for in government funding allocations if its impact was not to be passed on to council tax payers.