PLANS for a private firm to issue fines to litter louts were given their backing by councillors on Tuesday.

Those discarding their waste in the streets and public spaces around Darlington could soon be hit with instant £75 fines if they are caught by an enforcement firm on patrol around the town.

Dog owners who don’t pick up their pet’s poo will also face financial penalties and could end up before the courts if they refuse to pay.

Later this month, Darlington Borough Council is expected to approve a raft of recommendations that would allow the authority to contract a private company to conduct the patrols.

The move comes after veteran Tory councillor and environmentalist Gerald Lee campaigned for more than a year to enlist such companies and in doing so, help to clean up the town in the wake of cuts to street cleaning services.

Under the scheme, there would be limited concessions for under-18s caught littering, some of whom could be ordered to take part in “restorative justice” by joining litter picks.

The council’s cabinet voted unanimously to support the proposals at a meeting on Tuesday evening that saw councillors voice their disgust at the behaviour of “a small minority” whose actions are blighting the appearance of the town.

A cross party discussion heard councillors raise issues flagged by residents in their wards, with Liberal Democrat Anne-Marie Curry saying: “Some dog owners will pick [the waste] up but then they’ll discard the bag in other places, in gardens or on railings.

“There was a dog poo tree in our ward on land owned by Morrisons and it cost thousands for them to bring a private company in to clean it up.

“That kind of behaviour is just as bad as leaving the dog poo on the pavement.”

Conservative leader Heather Scott said her group welcomed the plans and criticised irresponsible dog owners and teenagers who discard their litter, saying: “It will be good to send out a strong message to people who drop litter and let their dogs foul.

“We’ve got to get the message across that it costs us money to collect litter and that money could be spent on other services.”

Cllr Cyndi Hughes raised concerns about the potential impact of the scheme on vulnerable people, including those that are homeless or mentally ill. She called for an educational campaign to accompany the initiative, which would begin as a six-month trial before being extended for five years if successful.

Cllr Nick Wallis, who presented the report to cabinet, said a campaign could run in the weeks leading to the trial, adding: “It’s important to make people aware that there will be consequences of dropping litter.”

The proposals are expected to go before Darlington’s council for approval at a meeting taking place from 6pm on Thursday, March 22 at the Town Hall. Members of the public can attend.