LITTER louts have been handed more than 1,100 fixed penalty notices in the first month of "zero-tolerance" crackdown by Wirral Council.

The authority hired national agency Kingdom Ltd to provide enforcement action across the borough, with patrols using high-tech methods, including body cameras, to gather evidence of offences.

Wirral Globe: Many Cigarette butts in the dirty ashtray. (33089707)
The majority of the fines were for cigarette ends

They began enforcement on July 1 and had issued 1,176 fixed penalty notices by the end of the month - more than 10 times the number issued over the last five years.

Just 90 fines were handed out between 2010 and 2015. 

The fixed penalty for dropping litter is £80 but this is reduced to £60 if the person pays within 10 days of receiving the notice.

If all of the fines issued in July are paid, the council could earn between £70,000 and £94,000.

A percentage of each fine goes directly to Kingdom.

More than 98% of those given fixed penalty notices for dropping litter in the borough were disposing of cigarette-related items - mainly cigarette ends.

Cllr Bernie Mooney, cabinet member for environment and sustainability, said: “I think we’ve shown in the first month of having Kingdom enforcing the legislation on our behalf that we mean business when it comes to delivering the council leader’s pledge to tackle littering, as well as fly-tipping and dog fouling.

“We are absolutely committed to cleaner streets, parks and open spaces and creating a more pleasant environment for all Wirral residents as they go about their day-to-day lives and we are heartened by the level of public support we have had for this approach.”

Michael Fisher, divisional director for Kingdom, said: “We are pleased with how our partnership with Wirral Council is developing as we work towards our common aim of reducing street litter and making the streets both cleaner and safer for all members of the community.

“Our officers patrol in an ‘intelligence led’ manner focusing our controls on identified litter hotspots operating a robust but always proportionate methodology to tackle the problem.

"We also use a wide range of technical support, including body worn cameras and a ‘real time’ capability of verifying details provided in the event of transgressions being identified. Our patrols are instructed to communicate openly with the community with the overall aim of inclusivity for the Wirral community to play their part in the task ahead.”

Following the shocking figures, Wirral Council said it will provide a limited number of wall-mounted cigarette bins free of charge to local businesses in an effort to encourage staff or customers who smoke outside their premises to dispose of their litter responsibly and avoid the risk of being fined.

As reported by the Globe last month, the crackdown could cost the authority money if the fines are not paid.

A percentage of each fine goes straight to Kingdom.

In 2013, the Croydon Advertiser reported that the private firm was paid £45 by their local authority for every litter fine they issued and with only 57% of fines actually paid, the authority was out of pocket more than £3,000.

A spokesman for Wirral Council said they too operate a similar scheme, with Kingdom receiving a percentage of each fine, although they could not tell the Globe how much as it is deemed “commercially sensitive” information.

The council says it will take all steps possible to ensure fines are paid to minimise the financial risk to the authority.

Those who fail to pay the fixed penalty could be taken to court.