A Merseyside council has explained why it won’t take litter enforcement services currently run by controversial environment team Kingdom back in-house.

Wirral Council has revealed the move as one of its committees prepares to discuss the recently called-in decision to award the company a contract of up to six more years.

The environmental team, whose responsibilities cover offences like dog fouling and littering, have been working for the council since 2015, and a three year contract extension was announced by the authority in June.

The move also had the option of extending the contract for a further three years to a total of six – stretching to 2024, and earlier this month, was called in by the local authority’s Liberal Democrat and Green groups.

But in the cabinet member report put forward by portfolio holder Cllr Matthew Patrick, he revealed why the initial decision was made to renew the contract with the controversial firm and not bring services back “in house”.

It said: “This option was discounted based upon a lack of internal capacity, extensive investment in technical infrastructure being required and previous unsuccessful attempts at delivering environmental enforcement services.”

When contacted for further comment, a council spokesman added that contracting out enforcement means receiving a “level of service we would not be able to deliver cost-effectively in-house”.

He added: “There are dedicated enforcement officers on patrol 362 days a year under the contract and it does not cost the council anything to operate – indeed, there is the potential for any surplus income that we receive from fixed penalty notices to be reinvested in environmental projects in Wirral.”

Kingdom, which also operates in the Liverpool area, has been judged in both areas as successful in keeping the streets clean, but there have also been various complaints from members of the public about some of the enforcement officers’ conduct.

This has included claims officers have deliberately targeted more vulnerable people, have issued fines to people dropping litter accidentally, and acting in an intimidating manner.

On July 17, the environment overview and scrutiny committee will hold a special meeting to debate the contract call-in, where evidence will be heard from various witnesses before a decision is made to uphold the decision, or refer it to the cabinet member or council.

It comes after six councillors said they chose to call in the decision as members have had “insufficient opportunity” to look at the revised contract, “so that they can be satisfied the contractor will meet requirements that members might reasonably expect”.

The call-in schedule to be discussed next week said: “Members believe that the approach to litter enforcement approved by council needs to be undertaken in a way that secures public support and understanding.

“They, therefore, wish to be satisfied that the aim of reducing litter is not undermined by suspicions that the ease of generating cash from some crackdowns and fines leads to the prioritising of some activities rather than others.”