COUNCILLORS clashed over the need for education rather than enforcement as figures showed thousands of fines have been handed out for people dropping cigarettes and litter in Hyndburn.

The council’s overview and scrutiny committee met to discuss the performance of Kingdom enforcement officers, who have been working across the borough as part of a trial where anyone found dropping litter is handed a £75 fine.

At its July 2018 meeting, cabinet approved the appointment of litter and dog fouling enforcement contractor Kingdom on a 12-month pilot, with a request that operations would be up and running in time for the opening of the new Accrington town centre square in November.

Since then, enforcement officers have handed out 2,138 fixed penalty notices (FPNs), with the vast majority in Accrington.

Chairman of the committee, Cllr Noordad Aziz, told environment boss Cllr Paul Cox he thought education would be more effective in stopping people littering over the long term.

He said: "To me, it's a false economy. For what they have issued, we could have employed roughly three people to educate so they are having a longer term impact.

"We need to educate rather than penalise and I think the number of tickets would decrease faster if we take that point of view."

But Cllr Cox insisted from speaking to street cleaners that the borough’s streets had been less cluttered with litter since the trial began.

And he said Kingdom’s services had only been employed as something of a last resort as it had been felt educating people not to drop litter had not worked.

He added: "We are learning that numbers are quite up and down and varied so to actually employ someone to do it for us is not cost effective at the moment but it's something we could consider in the future.

"The current system allows us to deal with other things like clearing up fly-tipping. In my dream world we wouldn't need this service because people would put litter in the bin but that's not realistic unfortunately.

"We have not entered into this on a whim just to do enforcement.

"We wanted to get the message out there and we did everything possible.

"This is a last resort and it targets people who still refuse to take up the offer of education."

A report is due to be taken to the November meeting of cabinet to consider the continued use of litter and dog fouling enforcement across the borough.

If approved, Cabinet is being asked to extend the current pilot agreement until March 31 to facilitate the necessary time to tender the service.

Cllr Cox said he would take the committee’s comments on board for when the service is put out to tender.