Published: 12:00, 30 September 2016
Maidstone’s entire litter enforcement service has been suspended – after a woman was fined for feeding the ducks.
The extraordinary move follows the latest action by an overzealous officer, and led to all wardens being taken off patrol while a review by Maidstone Borough Council was conducted.
An £80 fixed penalty notice was issued to a woman feeding the ducks in Tovil – because the warden insisted no birds were present at the time.
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The fine was withdrawn shortly after.
Martyn Jeynes, environmental enforcement manager, took all wardens off the streets on September 16 to carry out a two-week review of the service which ends on Monday.
MBC subcontracts private firm Kingdom Security to patrol and issue £80 tickets to people caught littering in the County Town. The money is split 50/50 between the authority and the company.
VIDEO: Here's the moment a man confronted a litter warden in Maidstone.
But the service courted controversy when footage emerged online in July of two men being confronted at a churchyard in Detling after putting their cigarettes in a wheel barrow. They were not charged.
Another incident late August in Maidstone High Street saw a cafe worker confront a warden after being fined for putting his cigarette in an out of use bin.
MBC has always stood by its wardens but was forced to apologise after the latest incident and the officer involved was spoken to about his conduct.
A spokesman for MBC denied the decision to launch a review was due to the improper fine but admitted it was a factor.
Alison Broom, chief executive of MBC, said: “Any service that the council provides to residents is continually reviewed to ensure it’s achieving its objectives.
It was decided at an operational level that the Litter Enforcement Service would be reassessed with the aim of ensuring that Kingdom Security is providing the best response to our priority of providing a clean and safe environment.”
Kingdom Security has a two year agreement worth £160,000 with the authority which also sees the company getting 50% of every fine issued.
Over a year from September 2015 the company issued 2,116 tickets, 61 of which have been cancelled. It also has contracts with several local other local authorities, including Ashford and Gravesham.
No enforcement officers have been suspended or lost their jobs as part of the review and wardens will patrol the town as normal from Monday .