STREET cleaners may be given the power to fine litter louts if a new get-tough policy fails.

In a first for the North-East, Redcar High Street has been designated a litter-free zone.

Community wardens will patrol the streets and use their existing powers to issue £50 on-the-spot fines to anyone seen dropping litter.

The public and businesses will also be asked to sign a Keep Our Town Tidy pledge.

The get-tough policy is expected be extended to Guisborough and Saltburn and businesses have been warned that fines of £2,500 could be imposed if they fail to clean the areas around their premises.

If the new policy does not work Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council will consider giving street cleaners the right to fine members of the public who drop litter.

Part of a £300,000 kitty will be used to increase the council's High Street clean-up regime and businesses will also be urged to compete for Tidy Business Awards.

Speaking on Tuesday at the launch of the new clean-up drive Mike Hardman, the council's assistant director for neigbourhood services, said: "We don't want to necessarily be draconian with businesses and the public.

"In fact we find that most businesses are happy to see the area be as tidy as possible.

"We are considering giving street cleaners new powers. If they cleaned up a street and someone dropped litter in front of them just as they had finished they would be able to issue a fine."

Marian Harrison, regional director of Encams, formerly the Tidy Britain Group, said: "We're sure that neighbouring authorities will also take a great interest in the scheme, which is a first for the North-East."