A COUNCIL is considering the use of private sector enforcement in a bid to clean up the streets after a veteran councillor called for on the spot fines to be issued to litter louts.

Darlington councillor Nick Wallis said the town's council is currently "reviewing its options" following a campaign from prominent environmentalist Cllr Gerald Lee.

For almost a year, Cllr Lee has been urging Darlington Borough Council to hire 'litter police' to conduct patrols around the town and issue immediate fines to anyone who discards their waste in the street.

He believes on the spot fines could generate revenue for the council while helping to clean up the streets and has expressed disappointment in the resistance he has faced in his push to get the council to follow in the footsteps of other authorities who have already contracted private firms to conduct patrols.

Cllr Lee admits the idea could prove contentious but believes that fining individuals will help in the battle against litter, especially in a town where cuts to environmental services have had a significant impact on its appearance.

He said: “I would love to say that I am nearly there with this idea but I feel I’m a voice calling in the wilderness.

“Part of the fine will go to the local authority so from my point of view, it’s a win-win situation for the council.

“It will bring in money for the coffers and raise awareness overnight of the fact that the council will not put up with people throwing litter on the ground.

“This problem is not going away, those that clean the streets in the town centre say that they start at one end and by the time they’re finished, they have to go back again.”

Cllr Lee said that Darlington’s litter problem presented a danger to wildlife and could have a significant effect on tourism and attracting people to the town.

He added: “Councils are doing more and more to tackle the problem but they cannot get to the bottom of it.

“The simplest solution is for communities to work together to help themselves but in the meantime, independent companies should be brought in to do enforcement work for us.

“A lot of people at the council do not feel we should be fining people and I can understand that and the fear that these companies do not take prisoners.

“There will be some difficulties when 89-year-old Mrs Smith is fined for dropping a bus ticket when pulling something out of her purse and I accept all of that but to do nothing is not an option.”

Councillor Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for leisure, local environment and transport said that proposals were in place to increase resources to the town's Street Scene service to improve street cleaning and enforcement options for those who drop litter.

He added: "I have been working with council officers who have been reviewing the options relating to the use of private sector enforcement and I will be presenting a report for councillors to consider in the near future.”

A consultation is currently under way , with the council asking Darlington residents to highlight what matters to them most.