LITTERBUGS owe Southampton City Council £28,000 as hundreds of litter fines are yet to be paid, the Echo can reveal.

Enforcement officers dished out 2,144 fines between June 23 and October 19 this year as people were caught dropping litter and cigarette butts on city streets.

But the council is owed £28,000 from around 700 fines which are yet to be paid.

Civic chiefs said litterbugs who are yet to pay their fine will be taken to court.

The cost of outstanding fines is expected to go down as late payments are made and prosecutions are concluded.

But city councillors have pledged to keep the scheme under review as the findings have been described as “a bit worrying”.

Since June, people caught dropping litter in Southampton face a £75 fine. This could be reduced to £55 if paid within the first ten days.

As reported, enforcement officers are deployed across the city by East Hampshire Commercial Services Limited (EHCS) on behalf of Southampton City Council.

A new report revealed that the city council pays EHCS  £55 for each fine issued.

But £28,000 worth of litter fines are yet to be paid to the council.

In the report civic chiefs said: “This is over and above the budget assumption on unpaid fines, but is not a final figure.

"This is a relatively short period of time and of course will remain under review to ensure that the contract and outcomes are both cost effective and support the desired behaviour change across the city.”

Fines can be withdrawn or not pursued in a number of cases such as when an offender is vulnerable or under 18. Enforcement officers are not paid for fines which are withdrawn or not pursued.

According to the report,of the 2,144 fines issued 1,745 were in the city centre and 250 in Shirley.

Daily Echo: Southampton city centre was the worst hit area by dropped litter.Southampton city centre was the worst hit area by dropped litter.

"So far 35 prosecutions have been heard at Southampton Magistrates Court while 200 cases are to be heard over the next two months.

The city council said the money from issuing fines goes towards the cost of the service, while money from fines that are issued by magistrates is paid to the court .

Cllr Dave Shields said the scheme is at an early stage .

He added: “Prosecutions for any fixed penalty notices that remain unpaid will be sought through the magistrates’ court.

"Any initial shortfall will be recouped over time and we are also hopeful that the number of fines issued will decrease as the message regarding disposing of litter properly becomes clear. ”

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee will look at the scheme in six months.

Chairman Cllr Steven Galton said the scheme is at an early stage but he added: “It is unacceptable to drop litter.

"It is a bit worrying that at the moment it looks like we are going to lose money .”