The controversial “private litter army” patrolling Bath and North East Somerset is to be binned by the council.
Conservative council bosses signed a 12-month, no-cost contract last year with 3GS to clean up the streets by handing out fines for littering, dog fouling and flytipping.
But the Liberal Democrats who now control the authority have long voiced doubts about the deal and have now confirmed they have ousted the firm.
Enforcement is being taken back in-house, funded by an additional £140,000 in this year’s budget.
Neighbourhood services joint cabinet member, councillor David Wood, said: “We were always sceptical about privatised litter enforcement and we thought this was the wrong decision for Bath and North East Somerset so will not be renewing our contract with 3GS.
“However, we have listened to residents who have told us they still want to see fines issued, with a common sense approach, for littering.
“We plan to expand this by bringing this enforcement function and enforcement officers in house.
“Officers will be managed and paid by the council, working on residents’ priorities. This also means action on litter across the whole of Bath and North East Somerset, not just Bath city centre.
“This will enable us to allocate more of our own resources to dealing with fly-tipping and waste presentation issues.”
3GS was brought in last March to crack down on environmental crimes by fining offenders who drop litter, fly-tip or fail to pick up after their dogs.
Under the deal, any funds it received above its costs were passed on to the council or used by the firm for education and promotional purposes.
3GS promised “proportionate, high quality enforcement services to help local authorities maintain cleaner and greener neighbourhoods”, with an approach that “places community relations and reduction of offences above the pure generation of tickets and short-term cash”.
Freedom of information requests revealed its officers handed out more than 1,800 fines in the first 10 months of the contract – worth more than £200,000.
The vast majority of the fines were issued within the centre of Bath.
More than 96 per cent of them were for dropping cigarette butts, with only two fines issued for flytipping.
Not a single person was fined by 3GS for failing to pick up after their dog between March 8 and December 31 last year, the information request revealed.
The most controversial case was when Sally-Ann Fricker was handed a £150 charge for feeding part of a sausage roll to pigeons in Bath.
A video of the incident was viewed tens of thousands of times on social media, attracting widespread criticism.
3GS said at the time it stood by the decision to fine the grandmother.
Resident John Chapman had warned the council against bringing in a private firm that would act as “judge, jury and executioner” after hearing some “absolute horror stories”.
He said he was “absolutely over the moon” that 3GS had been dropped.
He said: “It’s what’s happened everywhere else it’s been tried.
“I don’t know why councils keep doing it, getting the same result and then seeming surprised.
“You can’t have law enforcement that’s driven by financial targets. It skews the priorities – and the streets are no cleaner.”
A spokesperson for 3GS said this week: “The authority has decided to in-house the service, which is of course their prerogative.
“3GS provides a range of different service models to meet different operational needs.
“We will continue to support the authority by providing a range of back office services.”
The council’s £140,000 extra spend in this year’s budget will provide “additional resources within the service area to address fly tipping and other environmental crimes”.
Officers can hand out a £150 fine for dropping litter, including cigarette ends, and to people caught on camera, throwing litter from vehicles.
Anyone caught flytipping can be issued with a penalty of up to £400.
The 3GS contract has been extended until April 1, when the new financial year begins.
Former Conservative councillor Bob Goodman was the strongest advocate for bringing in the firm.
He said it was “heavy handed” in a handful of cases but was “generally successful”, and even the Lib Dems had conceded that the city was looking cleaner.
Mr Goodman added: “The 3GS contract was at zero cost to the council. I do not know how much taking this back in-house will cost. Will it give the same degree of cover? I doubt it.
“Bristol City Council have just engaged 3GS for a longer term contract. They must have confidence in that organisation.
“I suspect this administration, and the cabinet member responsible, had a knee-jerk reaction to one of the issues.
“There are those who think it is perfectly alright to throw down cigarette butts and chewing gum, I am not one of them.
“The 3GS contract helped to show residents and visitors that throwing down litter is not acceptable.”
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter