'IRRESPONSIBLE' fly-tipping has cost taxpayers more than £1million across East Lancashire over the past year after almost 20,000 incidents were recorded, according to new figures.

Pendle saw the highest number of incidents in the area with 5,704 reported, while Hyndburn council spent an area high of £374,390 cleaning up fly-tipping.

Burnley saw the number of incidents decrease by more than 2,500 from the previous year, but still recorded more than 3,000 cases, as did Blackburn with Darwen.

The figures were released nationally by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

In total there were 18, 267 incidents in East Lancashire dealt with by councils and local authorities spent a combined total of £1,349,982 in clean-up costs.

Pendle was the third worst hit area in the whole of the North West, behind Manchester and Liverpool.

Council leader cllr Mohammed Iqbal said: "It is really disappointing.

"It comes as a surprise to me that there has been an increase, I don't know why that would have happened.

"This irresponsible behaviour is putting a strain on council services.

"Council reserves are diminishing.

"Hundreds of thousands of pounds are being spent on this which could be used on vital council services."

Pendle Council saw a rise of almost 2,000 incidents from 3,745 in 2015/16 to 5,704, and £332,979 had to be spent to clean them up.

Hyndburn council leader cllr Miles Parkinson called on tougher government legislation to help stop the 'epidemic'.

A total of 2,983 incidents were reported in Hyndburn, up from 2,372 from the previous year.

Cllr Parkinson said: "Nationally there is a fly-tipping epidemic.

"We will be taking the most robust enforcement action we can to clampdown on this.

"Hopefully the government will bring in stiffer penalties.

"The courts aren't able to treat it as seriously as other crimes, but that's what it is, a crime."

Hyndburn had the fourth highest cost for fly-tipping cleaning from all the North West authorities.

The Blackburn with Darwen district saw the second highest number of incidents in East Lancashire with a total of 3,883, compared to 3,817 last year.

A total of £296,651 was spent by the local authority to clean up the waste according to the figures from DEFRA.

Despite the number of incidents in Burnley falling from 5,962 to 3,101 council bosses said this is not enough, and £167,949 had to be spent on the clean up.

Cllr Mark Townsend, leader of Burnley Council, said: "Even though the number of incidents has gone down I'm still sick and tired of people dumping irresponsibly.

"The council and the general public are fed up of this.

"We have a very strict policy to tackle the issue with our enforcement team and will prosecute anyone caught fly-tipping.

"But the message obviously isn't getting through to all these irresponsible people.

"I'd call on the public to help and report anything they see."

In Rossendale just 913 incidents were reported, an increase from 800 the previous year, costing the local authority £78,569.

The Ribble Valley council were forced to spend £29,808 clearing up 803 incidents of fly-tipping in the past year according to the statistics, up from 754 incidents the previous year.

In Chorley figures showed there was 880 incidents in the last year, slightly down from 886 the previous year, which cost a total of £69,636 in clean up fees.

Reported fly-tipping incidents in East Lancashire saw an increase of 71 between April 2016 and March 2017 from the previous year.

The DEFRA figures only account for flytipping incidents on council land, not private land.