Litter enforcement officers employed by Pendle Council have been accused of concentrating on "easy targets" and causing distress to the public.
Out of more than 1,000 fines issued by private company District Enforcement Ltd, no fewer than 996 are cigarette related – ends and rolled up cigarettes, a situation branded as "easy pickings" by a leading Pendle councillor. Only 11 fines were issued for dog fouling.
Liberal Democrat Coun. Tony Greaves said: "I have written to senior Pendle Council staff to ask for explanations in response to a spate of complaints about high-handed and unfair tactics being used by the new litter enforcement officers in Pendle.
"There is also real concern that the privately employed enforcement officers are concentrating on 'easy targets' and not tackling the real problems of litter such as food wrappers, takeaways, and general litter.
"There has also been a spate of complaints against unfair bullying tactics being used by the green-uniformed enforcement officers."
Shocking examples include:
• A ticket for a man loading shopping into the boot of his car and temporarily putting a carton on the tarmac next to the car.
• A driver who dropped a paper out of his pocket when getting his car keys out.
• A supermarket receipt left in a trolley.
• Issuing a ticket and causing distress to an elderly man with Downs Syndrome.
• A fine for the parent of a child throwing his lolly out of his pram.
The fine for dropping litter of any kind is £150 or £80 for payment within a fortnight.
Following complaints that the enforcement officers were operating on private land, ASDA in Colne has now banned them from its car park.
Coun. Greaves added: “We are all 100% against litter and dog fouling which are both a curse on modern society. But what is reported to be going on is not acceptable.
"It just seems like a racket by a private company to extract a lot of money out of Pendle. Around 1,000 fines amounts to between £80,000 and £150,000 – all in the first two months. There must be better ways of tackling the problem."
Philip Mousdale, Corporate Director for Pendle Council, said: “The enforcement team was introduced in response to complaints from residents about littering and dog dirt.
“We receive information from members of the public about where there are issues and direct the team to those specific areas.
"We accept that it will take time for people who litter or do not clean up after their dogs to change their behaviour but we hope as the trial progresses we will see the benefit of our enforcement action.
“We regularly meet with the team to discuss the approach being taken and we’re pleased that we’ve had lots of positive feedback from residents about the action we’re taking to improve the borough.”
The enforcement team, introduced in February, is working across the borough for a 12 month trial at no cost to the council and the officers are not on a bonus payment system.