FLY-TIPPING in Croydon has increased by more than a quarter, newly published figures have revealed.
Reports of waste being dumped across the borough jumped 26 per cent from 4,554 in 2011/12 to 5,623 in 2012/13.
Council officers claim the cause of the increase is "obvious" – people are simply reporting fly-tipping more often.
But Bernadette Khan, councillor for West Thornton, the ward with the highest levels of fly-tipping, is unimpressed with the explanation.
Fly-tipping increased in West Thornton from 194 reports to 648.
"You only have to drive through the area to see how much of a disgraceful state the streets are in," said Cllr Khan.
"This isn't an imagined or exaggerated problem. Fly-tipping has a tremendous impact on residents' quality of life. The situation in West Thornton has become unacceptable."
Last year the council cut more than £1 million from the budget for teams tasked with tackling issues such as fly-tipping.
The figures were published alongside a report into how effective the new system has been, which was discussed at a scrutiny and strategic overview committee meeting on Tuesday.
Under the old system, each ward had a dedicated patrol to tackle fly-tipping.
There are now 16 fewer officers and the remaining staff have been formed into area-based patrols covering four larger areas – north, inner north, central and south.
Officers claim the old system was "time consuming" and focussed on dealing with the symptoms rather than the causes.
"Officers have to go out to inspect everyone before they are passed on to Veolia to clear," the report said.
"Most of the time officers are just verifying what customers have already reported with nothing for them to investigate, so it is not a good use of their time."
Despite the increase in fly-tipping, the council claims the restructure has "strengthened the approach to environmental enforcement".
The report added: "There is an obvious reason for this increase and that is the confidence that the service has is in data collection and reporting by the new service that is currently taking place."
Cllr Khan said she had some sympathy for the teams but that more needed to be done.
"I have to say the officers who work in that department have been extremely good.
"But it's clear to me that this the result of cutbacks. They have led to changes in the system used to address the issue, which means these teams are being asked to do more with less."
As well a reduction in the number and size of patrols, critics of the council claim the increase in fly-tipping, which was a key issue during the Croydon North by-election, has not been helped by new fortnightly black bin collections and introducing charges for the removal of bulky waste.
Phil Thomas, cabinet member for environmental services, said: "Cuts have had no impact whatsoever on fly-tipping, to claim otherwise is nonsense.
"The main reason for the increase is that people are reporting it more, which is what we have been encouraging them to do.
"It's nothing to do with changing the bin collections or introducing a bulky waste charge."
When the Advertiser pointed out that an increase in reports has simply revealed the true extent of a problem that used be underestimated, Cllr Thomas replied: "I'm not really sure of the answer to that."
The council has ordered three new mobile CCTV cameras which will be deployed at hotspots to tackle fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour.