COUNCIL chiefs are investigating a complaint that litter squad Kingdom is using heavy-handed tactics to issue fines to Wirral businesses.

Sean Martin, who runs Liberty Antiques in Seabank Road, New Brighton, was one of eight shop owners issued with £300 penalty notice on January 14.

All had been told to provide copies of their "waste collection agreement" and were given 14 days to send the information.

The shop owners say they all did so on time, or notified the company they do not generate any business waste.

But they received a letter from Kingdom – which is hired by the town hall to enforce anti-litter laws - confirming they had been fined on January 29, the day after the deadline elapsed.

Mr Martin, who says he has no intention of paying the fine, has now sent a strongly-worded letter of complaint to council leader Cllr Phil Davies.

It says: "Kingdom look for easy targets instead of concentrating on the real problem areas that they be should be targeting.

"On our little section of Seabank Road, seven shops or businesses were visited. All seven of us are family-owned and between us we employ about 20 people including ourselves.

"All seven of us have received fines. Three of us sent our waste agreements within the 14 days. Others had replied to state they did not generate any waste.

"Have the council no shame whatsoever?

"If this has happened on Seabank Road, translate this to the thousands of streets and businesses on Wirral and you are opening a huge backlash from hard-working people struggling to keep their little shops and businesses afloat."

Mr Martin told the Globe: "I've got no intention of paying the fine. The bailiffs can come if they want but they won’t find much here.

"I think it's outrageous that Kingdom can go around issuing fines like that.

"The council shouldn’t be employing an outside agency to do what council employees should be doing anyway.

"I sent the paperwork well within the allotted 14-day timescale but the fines were automatically sent out on day 15.

"Kingdom in my view are too aggressive in their approach."

A Wirral Council spokesman said: "The council has received a complaint and it is being looked into.

"Continuing to improve recycling rates and protecting the beautiful environment Wirral is so widely praised for is a top priority.

"No matter how small the business or how much waste it generates, the law requires there be arrangements in place for its proper disposal.

"It is up to the business to arrange for this. It is not a landlord's responsibility nor the local authority's, nor should it be disposed of in public litter bins, domestic bins or taken in person to the tip.

"The contract with Kingdom includes ensuring all businesses in the borough comply with legislation."

Businesses who don't follow the rules could be hit with a fixed penalty of £300.

If prosecuted, they could be fined any amount determined by the court with no upper limit.

The council representative added: "Any business which feels it has been unfairly treated can appeal and this will be dealt with fairly and quickly."

Oxton councillor Stuart Kelly said: "If it is true that these businesses submitted their paperwork in time as requested and have still received fines then I think the business waste contract with Kingdom ought to be suspended until we can be certain that the processes that allowed this to occur are changed to ensure that this does not happen.

"If it turns out that these businesses have been wrongly issued with fines the council and Kingdom should apologize and compensate the business owners without complaint.

"Wirral Council needs to have a look hard look at itself if it thinks hassling hard working small businesses is appropriate behaviour for this council and its contractors. 

"I have raised this matter directly with chief executive Eric Robinson and await his reply."