TAXPAYERS could be left to pick up a £2m bill for clearing up a rubbish tip that has been deemed unsafe.

Yesterday it emerged that the Environment Agency had revoked the licence for Averies Recycling, at Marshgate, and Swindon Skips, at Cheney Manor, giving the owner several months to clear the sites.

In the last year both have seen large scale rubbish fires, most notably at Marshgate which took eight weeks to put out and cost nearly £500,000.

If Lee Averies, who owns both businesses, fails to comply he could be prosecuted and faces the possibility of a fine or a jail sentence.

However, it emerged yesterday if this does happen the clean-up is the responsibility of the landowner which, in the case of the Cheney Manor site, is Swindon Borough Council.

Marshgate is privately owned and will coast about £1m to clear.

The EA order says Cheney Manor must be cleared by March 4. If it is not done by then action could be taken and responsibility may then be passed over to the council.

The business operates by customers paying the companies to store the waste and then the companies pay to take the rubbish to landfill.

So Swindon Skips and Averies have been paid to hold the waste but after months have still not taken it away.

A spokesman for the EA said: “It is not the responsibility of the Environment Agency to clear the sites of waste.

“That would ultimately fall to the landowner if the company failed to clear the site of waste.

“It should be noted that the company has already received payment to remove waste but has failed to dispose of it.”

Further doubts were raised over the firms’ ability to pay after it also emerged that the council took Averies Recycling to court last week to chase almost £5,000 of unpaid business rates.

A council spokesman said: “Averies Recycling (Swindon) did not pay its business rates and we took the matter to court as we do in all cases of this nature.

“Magistrates granted a liability order, which means we can now instruct enforcement agents to recover the money owed.”

At a time of tight budgets, any clear-up cost is likely to have a impact on council finances.

A £2m bill would dwarf the £770,000 planned savings made by the children’s centre closures.

Council chiefs are in discussions with the EA over options but everything depends on whether Lee Averies clears up the mess of his two companies.

Council leader David Renard said: “We are continuing to talk to the EA about options to resolve this issue so it is to early to say the bill will be picked up by the tax payer.

“That said, I am not happy about the situation and the money isn’t paid we will have to explore what to do next.

“The £2m is an EA figure and I am not sure how it has been reached but it is the equivalent of 2.5 per cent on council tax so it is clearly not something we can afford.”