NUMBERS of fines handed out for littering in the district have soared from just 47 in 2016 to more than 820 in a single month.

The surge follows the employment by Bradford Council of a private contractor to enforce littering regulations.

Figures revealed through a Freedom of Information request show that 2,947 fixed penalty notices for littering have been issued by private security firm 3GS since the company was hired in July last year.

In the same month, the fine for littering was increased from £75, or £50 for early payment, to £80 with no reduction for early payment.

The council took no one to court for failing to pay a litter fine in 2015, 2016 or the first half of 2017. But since July 2017, it has brought 55 prosecutions against people for non-payment of fines.

Worth Valley councillor Rebecca Poulsen welcomed the crackdown but said the number of fines was “concerning”.

She added: “If people have genuinely littered and been issued a fine and not paid it, I think it’s perfectly right they are sent to court and that will send out a strong message.

“But it’s quite concerning that the numbers are going up, not down, because you hope it would be the other way around.You would anticipate that the numbers would decline as people become educated that littering isn’t acceptable and you do risk getting a fine.

“We need to educate people so that they don’t drop litter in the first place.

“I just hope that some of the money from these fines is going back into working with people and cleaning up, rather than just as an income stream.”

There are eight private enforcement officers who patrol Bradford city centre and Keighley to target litter louts.

A council spokesman said: “The substantial rise in fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for littering since we employed private enforcement officers shows that we have chosen an effective way of dealing with the problem of littering.

“Although it is too early to provide definitive evidence, our clean teams have reported that there is less litter for them to pick up. The number of prosecutions for non–payment of FPNs is also expected to rise over the next few months.

“With the help of the courts we are now able to use a swifter judicial procedure which allows us to prosecute non-payers much more quickly.

“Future figures will reflect this.

“The message is clear. If you don’t want to be issued with an FPN, then don’t drop litter or create other mess.”