A COUNCIL crackdown on litter louts, aimed at cleaning up Darlington's town centre streets, has achieved its first success.

Twelve children were caught dropping litter in the town centre by a new team of council wardens.

Their parents have been issued with final warnings, with the understanding that should the youngsters be caught again they will be fined £25 each.

Darlington Borough Council began a crackdown on litter in autumn, in an effort to strengthen its enforcement of anti-litter laws.

A team of 32 officers from the public protection division was sent into action with the power to issue on-the-spot fines.

The team included two full-time environmental wardens, three new community wardens and a number of car park wardens.

People who are fined for dropping litter are given 14 days to pay. If they fail to do so, they could face criminal charges at the town's magistrates court.

Wardens can also call on police back-up if someone refuses to pay a fine.

Council officials have stressed that the litter purge is not restricted to town centre streets.

Last week, two Darlington women were fined £25 at court and ordered to pay £50 costs for litter offences. Lucy Cox, of Arthur Street, Darlington, and Sandra Ann Keith, of Shildon Street, Darlington, both admitted depositing refuse without permission in a back lane.

Councillor Stephen Harker, Darlington Borough Council cabinet member for environmental protection, told The Northern Echo: "We are determined to keep our town centre litter free.

"Unsightly litter spoils the look of our town centre, and the council taxpayers pick up the clean-up bill."

As well as the litter crackdown, Darlington council is also looking at new ways of educating youngsters in schools and getting the message across that dropping rubbish in the street is wrong.

A council spokesman said: "It is not just about telling people what to do and using the big stick.

"A mixture of enforcement and education is always the best way to tackle problems like this.