BASILDON Council’s ill-fated trial of private litter wardens cost the taxpayer more than £36,000 as hundreds of fines went unpaid.

Basildon Council recruited private company Xfor to use its wardens to dole out tickets to litterbugs, and had intended that it the trial would cost nothing, as while it would pay the firm for every penalty it handed out, it would make its money back when the fine was paid.

But the authority scrapped the trial after nine months as it was dependant on litterbugs actually paying their fines, and after less than 60 per cent did so, the council was left £36,027 out of pocket.

Although some cases were taken to court, others were not able to be progressed because of inaccuracies from Xfor, and after the company went into administration in March, further prosecutions are unlikely as the case files are unavailable.

A damning report by the council said that the trial failed on every objective, and the council could have achieved similar results using its own resources, but despite this, John Dornan, cabinet member for environment, declared the trial an ‘absolute success’.

He said: “As far as we were concerned the trial was well worth doing but it was not going to be cost neutral and we’re not a prolifigate council so I decided to terminate the contract.

“There was a bottle-neck, we couldn’t force that many people through the courts and while a backlog continued we deemed it untenable.

“I would say it was an absolute success – I know the report might say differently – but people were saying that they noticed a difference around town and businesses were saying that it was a success.

“In another climate to spend £36,000 on six guys supporting the council in stopping littering we might have deemed that good value for a year.”

More than 4,000 penalties were handed out by Xfor’s team, comprising of ex-soldiers and police officers, but only 2,400 payments were received.

The authority took those who did not pay to court, with 16 successful prosecutions, with a further 16 court dates lined up for July.

But 18 further cases have had to be withdrawn after Xfor went into administration, meaning that it cannot provide case files, while other cases were dropped because other case files from Xfor were not complete and accurate.