Fly-tipping incidents have risen almost 40% in five years, councils have warned as they called for tougher sentences for people who illegally dump waste.
Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) found that nobody convicted of fly-tipping since ministers introduced new guidelines in 2014 had been given the maximum £50,000 fine or 12 months in prison by the courts.
But fly-tipping incidents have increased 39.6% from 714,637 in 2012/2013 to 997,553 in 2017/2108, analysis by the LGA of statistics for England from the Environment Department (Defra) show.
Councils have the power to issue fixed penalty notices for smaller instances of fly-tipping.
But town hall chiefs say that in the decade to 2020 they will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 from central government and still have to deliver legally-required services such as protecting children. This squeezes the money available for discretionary powers such as issuing fines for fly-tipping.
Funding pressures means council enforcement cannot keep up with the spiralling cases of illegal waste dumping, the LGA said.
Councils took action on 494,034 incidents in 2017/2018, up by just under 70,000 cases in five years.
Previous analysis by the Press Association has shown that, with councils facing pressure on their budgets, the majority now charge for bulky and garden waste collections, which could encourage some people to fly-tip.
The LGA called on the Government to review guidance to the courts to ensure the worst fly-tipping offenders face tougher sentences.
The association also said that, with councils in England facing an £8 billion funding gap by 2025, the spending review needs to ensure they have the funding required to investigate and prosecute fly-tippers.
Martin Tett, chairman of the LGA’s environment board, said: “Fly-tipping is unsightly, unacceptable and inexcusable environmental vandalism.
“Councils are doing everything they can to try and deter fly-tippers.
“However, prosecuting them often requires time-consuming and laborious investigations, with a high threshold of proof, at a time when councils face significant budget pressures.”
He added: “Consistent and hard-hitting prosecutions are needed to deter rogue operators and fly-tippers.
“Councils also need adequate funding to investigate incidents and ensure fly-tippers do not go unpunished.”
A Defra spokesman said: ““Fly-tipping is completely unacceptable and combating it remains a priority.
“We have strengthened local authorities’ enforcement powers and made it easier for vehicles suspected of being used for fly-tipping to be stopped, searched and seized. Our actions are delivering results, with no increase in the number of incidents over 2017/18 for the first time in five years.
“The maximum penalty on indictment for fly-tipping is imprisonment of up to five years or a potentially unlimited fine.”