NEARLY 1,000 fines have been handed out in Worcester for littering, flyposting and leaving commercial rubbish out in the last year-and-a-half.

And council officers might use powers designed for secret intelligence agencies to catch out more rule-breakers.

Councillors at the Guildhall have agreed to adopt a new environmental enforcement policy.

The policy allows council officers to investigate possible infractions of laws covertly – and adds that where they do, they will abide by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which more frequently applies to secret organisations like intelligence base GCHQ in Cheltenham.

To catch law-breakers, officers can use photographs, computer records, communications data, CCTV and body-worn cameras or information from other public bodies such the police or fire brigade.

The city council’s environmental enforcement team was set up in October 2016 – and in the 17 months since then it has issued 760 fines for littering, 76 for flyposting and 23 to companies for leaving their commercial waste on the streets after 9.30am.

The document says: “It is accepted that there are times when help may be needed about what the rules are and how they are applied and what is expected.

“So along with our tough stance on enforcement, advice and assistance are provided, it is recognised in this policy that it is frequently better to encourage compliance through more informal approaches.”

One councillor, Gareth Jones asked how much money had been raised by the fines, but officer Alice Davey didn’t have those figures to hand. Councillor Joy Squires, chairman of the Environment committee, said: “I don’t think this is normally thought of as income generation – it’s a last resort deterrent, if people don’t do what they should.”

The policy was approved unanimously.