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Kingdom litter 'bonuses': Panorama investigates Ashford wardens

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A litter warden boasted of making nearly £1,000 in ‘bonuses’ while patrolling the streets of Ashford, an investigation has revealed.

The special investigation called Inside the Litter Police was aired on BBC1’s Panorama on Monday.

It looked into the training, behaviour and practices carried out by staff at the enforcement company Kingdom, who were brought in by Ashford Borough Council (ABC) last September in a 12-month trial to tackle littering in Ashford and Tenterden.

The litter wardens in Ashford High Street
The litter wardens in Ashford High Street

Now the council has defended its use of Kingdom, and say the wardens had been taken off the streets until further notice while they are given additional training.

Kingdom wardens can issue £75 on-the-spot fines to litterbugs or those who fail to clean up after their pets.

The undercover reporter worked for a Kingdom enforcement team in Bexley and secret filming showed a manager tell the reporter that “every ticket over four, you get a little competency allowance”, which he described as “a bonus” when quizzed.

The manager said: “When I was doing it in Ashford, I was hitting out quite a lot of tickets and I think the most I brought home just on the bonus was £987.”

The money is believed to cover a month’s work.

In a statement Kingdom said that it offered a “competency allowance” but that it was discretionary and only paid if officers met all basic competencies.

The conversation about fines in Ashford, obtained by secret filming. Credit: BBC Panorama.
The conversation about fines in Ashford, obtained by secret filming. Credit: BBC Panorama.

The council takes £28.50 from each fixed penalty notice, while Kingdom bags £46.50.

Since September, the wardens have issued 2,190 fines, of which 1,739 have been paid.

After the broadcast, Maidstone Borough Council, which has also enlisted the company’s services, suspended the wardens for the day on Tuesday.

A council spokesman said: “Our wardens are trained to take a fair but firm approach when dealing with people caught littering. We are led to believe that the officers are salaried by Kingdom and do not have a target for issuing fines.

“The litter enforcement campaign is not about making money - it’s about trying to stop people littering, and improving the environment to make Ashford a cleaner and tidier place.

“Our wardens have a difficult job, but despite the recent negative portrayal of the scheme in the media, our community has been very supportive.

“Not only have our wardens received positive comments in person when they have been on patrol but we have also had positive feedback from our social media feeds and in the comment section under the news articles on Kent Online.”

Ashford Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson
Ashford Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson

Before the scheme was launched in September last year, Ashford council leader Gerry Clarkson said the softly-softly approach to litter enforcement was not enough.

He said: “We are determined to stop it. Let nobody be in any doubt about our resolve to stop those who are flouting the rules.”

Full story in this week's Kentish Express, out tomorrow (Thursday, May 18).

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