Letters of warning have been sent out in Bedford, informing residents of a £1,000 fine should they fail to retrieve their wheeled bins within 24 hours after collection, with council chiefs saying the bins on the pavement are a hazard to blind people
The penalty would be the largest ever imposed on those who fail to remove their empty bins from the pavement after they have been emptied and are more than 12 times greater than the on-the-spot penalties routinely handed out to shoplifters.
The local authority issued the letter just a month after the Government stated its opposition to "clearly disproportionate" fines. Ministers have promised a new law to strip councils of the right to levy large fines.
The letters distributed among the 65,000 homes in the borough say that anyone who fails to take their bin back in within 24 hours of their rubbish collection will be liable for the fine.
Matthew Hipkin, 37, told the Daily Mail newspaper: "It's an absolute waste of council money and time to have people walking the streets checking if someone has put their bin away.
"I understand the principle of keeping the streets clean but the council has put across its point in the wrong way. It is being way too heavy-handed."
Christine Melsom, of the Is It Fair? group, also told the newspaper: "I suppose they have to try to make money somehow but this is nonsense.
"This is taking bin fines far too far. In most parts of the country you find very few bins left out for long anyway."
A spokesman for the authority said: "We've been working with Sight Concern Bedford and the Royal National Institute of Blind People to encourage households to put their wheelie bins away, to help make pavements safer for blind and partially sighted people.
"Where we receive reports of households repeatedly leaving out bins which can cause problems to such people, the council will write to the households concerned and advise that this is an offence for which they may ultimately be fined."
A £1,000 fine is the largest possible under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act.
In the Government's Waste Review last ministers said punishments for erring householders should not be higher than fines for criminals.