COUNCIL litter enforcement officers have been accused of ‘heavy-handed’ tactics by a smoker who claims he was followed after he lit up a cigarette.

Chef Jamie Evans says two of Blackburn with Darwen borough’s new private contractor’s team turned their car round and drove behind him until he dropped the butt end down a drain.

They then refused to accept his apology and attempt to retrieve the cigarette end and gave him a £75 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN).

Monday’s incident came just days after the council sent teams from specialist company Kingdom Environmental Enforcement Services to spot, catch and fine those responsible for dropping litter, including cigarette butts, and allowing their dogs to foul the streets,

Mr Evans, brought up in Darwen but now living in York, said the tactics used by the enforcement officers were ‘heavy-handed’, ‘intimidating’ and ‘over-zealous’.

Tony Watson, head of environment at Blackburn with Darwen Council, defended the issuing of the FPN and denied officers followed people to see if they dropped litter.

Mr Evans, 28, was back in the town to see his seven-year-old son.

He said: “As I rolled up a cigarette in Olive Lane I saw these two official-looking people in a white VW Golf.

“When I lit up they turned their car round and followed me until I flicked the butt towards a grate.

“They got out a told me I had committed and offence and faced a £75 fine. They refused my apology and offer to pick it up before giving me the FPN.

“Following people like this is heavy-handed.

“It is intimidating and could frighten an elderly person, young woman or small child.

“I am all in favour of tackling litter and don’t normally drop cigarette butts but this is over-zealous.

“It is too strict and £75 is a lot of money for elderly people or those on benefits in Darwen.

“If they want people to support this drive they need to be more flexible and look at a lower fine.

“I can afford to pay but have complained to the council.”

Mr Watson said: “The level of litter in the town centre has already dropped in the short time since Kingdom started, especially in King William Street and also in and around the bus station.

“However, enforcement officers do not follow people but do observe people in the act of littering which is how people are caught.

“Throwing a cigarette into a drain certainly counts as littering and a notice was handed out accordingly.”

Darwen resident Roy Lawrenson is currently refusing to pay a £75 fine for dropping a cigarette butt on the floor outside Morrisons store on Railway Road, Blackburn.