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DEFRA’s survey of trunk road litter

On November 6, 2018, in APTRs, DEFRA, Highways England, by PeterSilverman

I have been studying Invitation to Tender SURVEY OF ROADSIDE LITTER ON TRUNK ROADS OTHER THAN MOTORWAYS   DEFRA are due to publish the results towards the end of 2018.

I have a number of concerns.
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The cost of keeping the streets clean

On November 6, 2018, in Local Authorities, by PeterSilverman

Extract from DEFRA’s Litter and littering in England 2016 to 2017. (12 February 2018)
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“Pot holes” & “plastic” but not a single mention of “litter” in the Budget. Nothing about reversing the downward trend in street cleaning expenditure.
This is the Treasury treating litter as a non-issue. DEFRA and the DfT are just as bad.
Therese Coffey MP is the junior minister at DEFRA in charge of litter but you would not know that from this list of her responsibilities taken from their web site:

  • air quality
  • floods, water and waterways
  • 25 Year Environment Plan
  • natural environment, including biodiversity, the marine environment, and international wildlife trafficking
  • resource and environment management

The DfT set Highways England targets for “biodiversity” and “air quality” but not for ”litter”. Read more here.

One notable announcement in the Budget was the that the government will not enter into any more PFI (Private Finance Initiative) deals. However these will continue to bleed Highways England of funds for years to come.See our posts on the M25 and A69 PFI deals.

Have your say

Peter Silverman


In November 2017 DEFRA Minister, Therese Coffey, claimed at a debate on rural fly-tipping that the Environment Agency had dealt with more than 200 cases in the previous year.  The EA deal with cases of large-scale tipping (more than 20 tonnes) leaving the rest to local authorities.

My analysis of the EAs prosecution database however showed that in 2017 the EA only prosecuted at most 5 people for fly-tipping.  DEFRA have steadfastly refused to comment on my analysis by the way.

So, I thought I would find out how Minister Coffey had been briefed on fly-tipping to see if she had been made aware of the abysmally low level of prosecutions by the EA. I did not foresee the run around I was going to be given.

Although briefing notes are “internal communications” they should be released once they have been redacted of any sensitive information about policy formulation. This is to give government departments “private thinking space”.

The request was made on 5th March using the excellent It was refused on the grounds the briefings were internal communications.  On 12th April I asked DEFRA to review their decision pointing out that redacted documents could have been supplied.

They failed to carry out a review within the statutory 40 days and so I made a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). The issue was very simple. Had DEFRA carried out a review or had they not?  All of the correspondence was there on the aforementioned web site. The complaint could have been turned around in 3 hours. However, the ICO took 3 months to issue a Decision Notice instructing DEFRA to carry out a review. They were told to do it within 35 days!

Exactly 35 days later they wrote to say they had carried out a review which had upheld their previous decision. No explanation was given as to why they could not provide redacted documents.

I have now submitted another complaint to the ICO askingthem to issue second Decision Notice instructing DEFRA to provide redacted documents.

What would  Victor Meldrew have said?

Peter Silverman
24th October 2018






Complaint to the Information Commissioner – DEFRA – Briefings on fly-tipping

Complainant:  Peter Silverman, 20 Kingsend, Ruislip, Middlesex HA4 7DA   01895 625770

I confirm that to the best of my knowledge I have given you accurate information relating to this complaint. I understand that during any necessary investigations, you may need to disclose the details I have provided to the subject of my complaint to allow them to make a proper response.  I also understand that your policy is to destroy documents relating to complaints after six months. I have clearly indicated those documents that you should not destroy and should return to me.


Please refer to:

On 5th March 2018 I had asked DEFRA for “copies of the written briefings given to Minister Coffey by DEFRA in the last 6 months on fly-tipping”.

My request was declined under EIR 12 (4) (b).

In my request for an internal review of 12thApril I said:

Could you please review your application of the public interest test bearing in mind:

  1. That some briefing documents would have contained purely factual information such as the law applicable to fly-tipping, the relative responsibilities of the government agencies, statistics on the cost of clearing fly-tipping, the actions taken by government agencies to deter fly-tipping and on existing policy etc etc

[ To avoid doubt I am not seeking information on the issues I have listed I am seeking information about how they were relayed to the Minister by your department]

  1. Where such documents contain information of a more sensitive nature e.g. on policy formulation these sections could be redacted.

I also drew their attention to your guidance notes on the application of the public interest test to EIR 12 (4) (b).

In their response of 17thOctober 2018 DEFRA provided a list of 7 documents fitting the criteria of my request but decided to withhold them.

They could have chosen to provide redacted copies but did not do so. This would have enabled them to retain their ‘private thinking space’, their actions would have been consistent with Article 4 para 2 of the European Directive and they would have demonstrated a presumption in favour of disclosure.

Instead they justified their stance by saying:

“If we had identified information for disclosure, we would have provided the information with the appropriate redactions to protect any sensitive information”.

This implies that the 7 documents contained onlysensitive information and nofactual information (refer to 1. above). This is patently absurd.

“Our original response shows that we considered the public interest in disclosing information in scope of your request” and “Our review of the public interest arguments set out in the response of 10 April is that the arguments were valid at the time and continue to be valid ….”

However, neither their 10thApril nor their 17thOctober communications considered applying the public interest test to the release of redacted documents.

“As stated above, you suggested that Defra could have provided more purely factual information. Our disclosure of the January 2018 factsheet, which included links to further factual information, goes a good way towards meeting the public interest in information about fly-tipping. Details about what the government has done and our plans were included in the fly-tipping fact sheet”.

However, to avoid this sort of issue blurring I had specifically stated in my request for an internal review: “To avoid doubt I am not seeking information on the issues I have listed I am seeking information about how they were relayed to the Minister by your department.”

I am still seeking that information.

Action requested

Please deal with this complaint solely in accordance with your obligations under FOIA S50. I am not asking you to act as a conciliator.

Please consider issuing a Decision Notice requiring DEFRA to provide copies of the 7 documents redacted of their sensitive information.

I made my request on 5th March. Seven months have now transpired. Three of these was accounted for by the time taken by you to issue your Decision Notice FER0755489 requiring DEFRA to complete an internal review.  I would be grateful if you could turn this complaint round more promptly if at all possible.

Kind regards

Peter Silverman
01895 625770
07799 404 766



Complaints from Councils – snippets

On September 25, 2018, in APTRs, by PeterSilverman

Highways England roads

Warwickshire Waste Partnership in reference to the Highways Agency:  “…they do not communicate with us. They produce a wonderful glossy strategy document that says how they will work with local authorities, but we get very little engagement” – 2014

Warwickshire Waste Partnership: “Working with the Highways Agency was a nightmare” – 2015

Tendring District Council in reference Highways England and to the A120 into Harwich: ” I have emailed and left voice messages with the highways contractor … I have not received any communication back” – 2017

Northampton Chronicle in reference to the A45 quoting Paul Frith: “The crazy thing is they are cutting back the trees in the area, why can’t someone pick up the rubbish as they go?” – 2016

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils in reference to Highways England and the A34: “.. “it is not possible to obtain lane or road closures during the day and even where night closures are agreed, they can be cancelled at very late notice for a variety of operational reasons“.

TfL roads

LB Wandsworth in reference to TfL : “..there was “always a bit of conflict about who is responsible” – 2015

LB Greenwich: “... arranging closures with TfL can take approximately 18 months”- 2018

Peter Silverman
25th September 2018


Ministerial merry-go-round at DEFRA and the DfT

On September 25, 2018, in DEFRA, DfT, Parliament, by PeterSilverman

DEFRA ministers with responsibility for litter since Jan 1st 2010:

Jim Fitzpatrick MP    to May 2010
Lord Henley   May 2010 – Sep 2010
Lord Taylor of Holbeach   Sep 2011 – Sep 2012
Lord de Mauley   Sep 2012 – Oct 2013
Dan Rogerson MP   Oct 2013 – May 2015
Rory Stewart MP   May 2015 – July 2016
Lord Gardiner of Kimble   July 2016 – June 2017
Thérèse Coffey MP   June 2017 – Present

Average time in the job 1 year and 1 month

Source:  FOI Act enquiry

Department for Transport ministers with responsibility for Roads including Highways England since Jan 1st 2010:

Chris Mole MP
Mike Penning MP
Stephen Hammond MP
Norman Baker MP
Robert Goodwill MP
John Hayes MP
Alan Jones
Jesse Norman MP – June 2017 – Present

Average time in the job 1 year and one month

Source: Desk research – the DfT did not hold this information


Peter Silverman
25th September 2018


National Fly-tipping Prevention Group

On September 24, 2018, in Fly-tipping, by PeterSilverman

Web site




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