FOUR hundred litter louts a month could be fined by a private company under tough tactics being considered in Poole.

The council admits it could be accused of a “Big Brother approach” if it adopts the scheme but says the public wants firm action.

Magistrates’ courts could have to hold special sittings to deal with the 50 people a month who are expected to go to court rather than pay their fines without question.

But the council admits staff could not put themselves at risk by handing out fines around late-night pubs and clubs without support from the police, which would be unlikely at a time of spending cuts.

A report by Shaun Robson, the borough’s head of environmental and consumer protection services, warns there could be “strong reputational damage to the council”.

But his report says: “Littering of streets and open spaces can be an emotive issue and there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that residents of Poole would like the council to take firm action against the perpetrators.”

Only 43 tickets for littering have been handed out by the Borough of Poole since July 2010. The £75 fines are issued by staff going about other jobs.

In Bournemouth, 146 fines were handed out between April 2011 and 31 March 2012.

Efforts to educate the public with a high-profile presence in littering blackspots were dropped in late 2010 because they were having little effect.

The council is considering hiring the company XFOR Local Authority Support. The company would use the revenue from fines to hire two teams of two people each to issue fines.

A large proportion of the estimated 400 fines a month would be for dropping cigarette butts and the council says people in the 18-35 age range would be most likely to receive fines.

Fines cannot be issued to under-18s, although the council could consider giving them education and advice.

Councillors are being given the chance to consider a six-month pilot project.

Richard Wilson, chair of the Ashley Road traders’ association, said he was broadly supportive of the idea but only if it was handled properly.

“The fines have to be proportionate and they have to be handed out sensibly, not to every Tom, Dick and Harry,” he said.

“We don’t want instances where mums are hit with a £75 fine because their child has dropped a crisp.”

Mr Robson’s report warns: “With an anticipated 400 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) per month likely to be issued, there is the possibility of adverse publicity and consequential reputational damage.

“There will be those who do not consider the discarding of cigarette butts as littering and will become aggrieved at the receipt of an FPN.

“The deployment of highly visible street litter patrol staff employed by a private contractor,may elicit complaints of the council adopting a ‘Big Brother’ approach to litter enforcement.”