WREXHAM Council has been accused of a lack of transparency after a bid to ditch its contract with a controversial litter enforcement firm was heard behind closed doors.

Following concerns the firm had issued penalties to vulnerable residents, it led to members of the authority's Plaid Cymru group of councillors calling on executive board members to suspend the contract with immediate effect.

Originally the motion was expected to be heard in public at a meeting yesterday morning, but legal advice was put forward less than 24 hours before it was due to be held recommending that members of the press and public be excluded.

Group leader Marc Jones appealed for the advice to be ignored and said the Kingdom contract was of 'intense public interest'.

Cllr Jones said: “I learnt about this at about 7 o’clock last night, I don’t believe that is a good way to go about things.

“The public interest in this issue is intense, the business community is very interested in this and I think the other thing to bare in mind is that this contract has been scrutinised by the relevant committee.

“I think it would be rather strange if we weren’t able to discuss this contract in public, when the public has been able to view and to discuss this contract themselves.

“I think you have to be careful about hearing things behind closed doors because you will be open to challenges of lack of transparency and a lack of openness."

It comes as new figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 8,173 fines have paid between April 2016, when the company started operating in Wrexham, and May of this year.

Of those 435 were appealed or representations made, including 130 on the grounds that they were issued to a vulnerable person, while 2,090 people were sent to court for failing to pay.

Addressing Cllr Jones' concerns, the council's head of corporate and customer services, Sioned Wyn Jones warned that details of the contract being disclosed in public would put companies off working with the authority.

She said: “Both the contractor and the council are entitled to keep private both the terms of the contract and any discussions surrounding performance, or the exercise of any powers under that contract by the council as the commissioning authority.

“The members of the executive board will also need to consider the public interest when determining that."

Councillors in neighbouring Flintshire recently recommended to its cabinet members not to renew their contract with Kingdom after accusing them of 'overbearing behaviour'.

However, in Conwy members were split down the middle over whether to extend theirs after officers told a meeting that the firm's staff had been "polite and courteous at all times" in the county.

Wrexham's executive board voted unanimously in favour of hearing the motion in private.

Council leader Mark Pritchard said: “I was a little bit surprised to see the wording of the motion, but it is what it is and we have to debate it on the way it was drafted to us and submitted.

“I think after listening to the advice that we’ve received from the legal officer this morning, it would be sensible and it’s a must that it should go in part two.”

The council's contract with Kingdom currently has just under a year to run until May 11, 2019.

It is also expected to be debated at a scrutiny committee meeting in the autumn.