A FIRM employed to tackle littering and dog fouling in Blackburn with Darwen has had its contract extended despite “high-profile” complaints about its conduct elsewhere in the UK.

And the council could now introduce a dedicated policy to help tackle littering by people under 18.

Kingdom started a 12-month trial period to enforce £75 fines (FPNs) for offences including littering and dog fouling in October 2017 and since then has issued almost 8,000 tickets.

Now Blackburn with Darwen Council bosses have taken the step of extending the programme until at least October this year.

As of January this year, 7,226 littering fines had been handed out as well as 40 for dog fouling and 583 for smoke-free offences - smoking indoors and in works vehicles, such as taxis.

Executive member for environment Cllr Jim Smith said: “During the period of the team’s operation, the team has performed satisfactorily in terms of conduct and diligence.

“Initial impact on litter levels in Blackburn town centre were noticeable, particularly around the bus station, although this improvement has slackened off in recent weeks, resulting in increased tasking of the team in the town centre.

“Issues around littering by under-18s have been identified, and this will be dealt with by the development of a policy for tackling littering by persons under the age of 18.

“The result of the team’s work is that Blackburn with Darwen now has a viable litter enforcement regime now, where there was none previously.

“In addition, the issue of dog fouling FPNs has increased significantly, currently at 40 compared with previous years’ figures of around five per year.

“During the period of the team’s operation, there has inevitably been some media interest, but while there has been criticism from some aggrieved parties as might be expected, public opinion appears to have been generally favourable.

“The council is aware of a high-profile Facebook campaign against Kingdom Environmental Services Group Ltd based in North Wales, but allegations made by this group have not been substantiated.

“Conversely, the team is receiving intelligence from the community to target its activity.

“There is no doubt that public awareness about personal responsibility in relation to littering and dog fouling has been raised, and that dog fouling and litter enforcement is having a positive impact on the borough.”

To date, payment has been made in 65 per cent of cases and 1,400 cases have been sent through to the council’s legal services department for prosecution.

Of the cases sent through for prosecution, 75 per cent have resulted in convictions, 15 per cent are still pending, and 10 per cent have been withdrawn.

A total of 598 FPNs have been cancelled.

There are currently four full-time enforcement officers, a manager and an administration officer.

Officers patrol borough-wide, focussing on the town centre due to demand.

Cllr Smith approved proposals to extend Kingdom’s contract until the end of October, with a view to retendering for then.

In the meantime, detailed information is collated in relation to enforcement models adopted by other councils, and a detailed review of the viability of bringing the service in-house in a different format than the current standalone team will be undertaken.