A CONTROVERSIAL pilot scheme to bring a private team of litter enforcement officers into Darlington to help clean up the streets is set to be binned.

Kingdom Service Group was drafted in by Darlington Borough Council to help it enforce its 'zero tolerance' approach to littering on an initial six-month trial period.

Last September, the company was contracted to issue fixed penalty fines for littering and dog fouling, mainly in the town centre.

But next week, the local authority is expected to end the controversial agreement at the end of March.

A report prepared ahead of Darlington Borough Council’s next Cabinet meeting recommends issuing notice to Kingdom to terminate the contract when the pilot ends on March 31.

Councillor Nick Wallis, the council's cabinet member for leisure and local environment, said: “We said at the start of this project that it was a trial basis and we would assess how it was working after six months.

“We have received feedback from people and businesses and on that basis it is being recommended that we do not continue with the pilot.

“However, and I cannot stress this enough, we still take the cleanliness of our town very seriously. We will continue to issue fines, where required, to people who drop litter or fail to clean up after their dog.

“Members of the public can be assured that, even if Cabinet agrees with the recommendation to end the contract with Kingdom, the cleanliness of our town centre remains a high priority for this council.

“We will also be working across the borough to tackle fly tipping, back lane littering and dog fouling more generally.”

The Northern Echo:

Cllr Nick Wallis

Last month, The Northern Echo revealed there had been several anecdotal reports of agents chasing people down the street, tracking smokers and following suspected litterers in a persistent and intimidating manner, entering businesses to confront customers and threatening to fine parents who had not noticed their children dropping litter.

Council figures showed the scheme had resulted in 574 fixed penalty notices issued in the first three months of the project.

Darlington Borough Council said 92 per cent of the £75 fines between October 1 and December 31 were issued within the town centre.

A spokesman for the authority said 559 of the notices were issued for discarding cigarette ends, 14 for other littering offences and only one was issued for dog fouling.

Before December 31, 66 appeals against the notices had been received, of which 19 had been upheld.

Cabinet meets at 5pm on Tuesday, February 5.

A full agenda can be found at www.darlington.gov.uk