WE welcome the news today that Darlington Borough Council is to ditch its links with a private team of litter enforcement officers, drafted in to clean up the town.

We certainly don’t think the council expected the task to be interpreted quite so literally, after talk of shoppers and businesses facing persistent and intimidating actions surfaced.

Some councils are making millions of pounds from Kingdom Services Group, despite countrywide claims of agents using aggressive and intimidating tactics to issue fines for minor offences such as littering and dog-fouling.

We too have reported in recent weeks cases from shoppers in Darlington who said they had been chased by agents, smokers who had been tracked and suspected litterers followed.

Kingdom is tasked by councils to deal with a range of minor offences, and data obtained shows that in Darlington 574 fixed penalty notices were issued in the first three months of the project. With your average fine at £75, it is no surprise that while some councils have dropped the company, others still use it to collect fines. Outsourcing enforcement to a company that is just in it to make as much money as possible is not just callous but irresponsible and a failure of governance, so we are delighted that Darlington will bring the scheme to a close at the end of its trial period.

However, with the town centre needing more care and attention than ever before, we should take some responsibility ourselves and pick up our litter to avoid the town centre knee-deep in snack wrappers and cigarette ends.