NEARLY 1,000 residents have been threatened with fines during an unprecedented bin blitz in Oxford.

But last night officials feared their efforts to rid the city of grime would be thwarted by Government plans to stop bin-related fines.

Oxford City Council officials fear the proposals will leave them toothless in the fight against rubbish.

And residents blighted by rubbish and rats said fines were the only way tackle the most serious problems.

Council enforcement officers combed residential streets in February gathering evidence of overflowing bins and piles of rubbish and litter in gardens.

As a result, 970 legal notices were handed out warning residents they could face an £80 fine.

The operation, which involved four officers, was part of the council’s Cleaner Greener campaign backed by the Oxford Mail.

But council leader Bob Price said stopping councils using fines would be “extremely damaging”.

Only 10 fines have been issued for bin offences in Oxford in the past year in the city, but Mr Price said without that “stick” it would be much harder to tackle persistent offenders.

He said: “The warning letters work. But without the threat of a fine behind them they don’t.”

It is understood the Government is expected to announce next month that fines will be outlawed in all but the most serious fly-tipping cases.

Mr Price added: “We’re not fining people for trivial offences. We’re saying if you have been blocking pavements or putting out side waste (overflowing bins) that attract vermin, it’s not helpful to public health.

“There’s no teeth without fines. It would be a retrograde step.”

He said advisory notes were given out for minor infringements: “In Oxford it has worked well. It has not caused resistance or been used in a trivial way.”

Adrian Greenwood, who lives in the St Clement’s area, said overflowing bins and rubbish in gardens was a real problem.

He said: “Last summer we had a rat get on to a bedroom windowsill. The neighbours had a dead rat in their garden. There are often sacks of rubbish left in the street.”

He said the problems were linked to a transient student population and fines were needed for repeat offenders. “For some of these people it goes on year after year and nothing gets done. By the time they go through the process the tenants have moved out and it starts again,” he said.