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Maidstone Borough Council suspends litter wardens after Panorama investigation into Kingdom Security

By Ed McConnell

Litter wardens in Maidstone have once again been suspended from duty after it was revealed they are being paid substantial bonuses based on the amount of tickets issued.

Maidstone Borough Council insists it was not aware of the extent of the ‘litter competency allowance’ Kingdom Security pays its staff.

Inside the Litter Police, which aired last night, saw an undercover Panorama reporter working alongside enforcement officers in Bexley.

Litter enforcement officers in Maidstone have been removed from duty
Litter enforcement officers in Maidstone have been removed from duty

During filming one employee told the reporter he once received a bonus of £987 while working in Ashford.

He said after issuing four fines in a day officers earn £5 for further tickets, increasing to £6 after seven fines are handed out.

In October – after we reported how officers were back on duty having been suspended after one fined a woman for feeding ducks – MBC denied Kingdom’s employees were paid any kind of commission.

A council spokesman today said it had no knowledge of the ticket-based pay system but stressed the bonus is not an incentive to issued tickets and is also determined by factors such as attendance and behaviour.

Kingdom splits the proceeds of each £80 fine 50/50 with the authority employing them.

At one point during the undercover filming one enforcement officer admitted regularly pretending to phone the police in order to encourage the public to hand over personal details.

Another officer said he tricked people into stepping away from dropped litter to prove they intended to leave rubbish behind.

During a training session a manager said the company is only interested in working with councils who want to adopt a hard line approach, revealing Kingdom – which works for 28 councils – had “just got rid of two councils because they are not profitable they just won’t let us enforce in the way that we need to. They want it to be all to be pink and fluffy and they want to give people warnings and cautions.”

The number of fines issued nationally has risen from 727 10 years ago to more than 140,000 last year.

Jennifer Shepherd, head of environment and public realm for MBC, said officers were removed on Tuesday following the report, adding: “We are currently speaking with Kingdom to review how we can continue to provide the best service to our residents and when officers will be reinstated.”

However, following discussions with Kingdom today MBC has made the decision to reinstate officers from tomorrow after its concerns were addressed.

MBC's contract with Kingdom is worth £240,000 and began in July 2015. It is due to end next June.

Litter in Brenchley Gardens
Litter in Brenchley Gardens

Swale and Ashford borough councils also employ Kingdom. Gravesham council did up until a few months ago.

A spokesman for Swale said it is already in the process of reviewing the contract, which began last year, and will be speaking to Kingdom about the revelations.

He said: “We know people have genuine concerns about the levels of litter and the cost of cleaning it up, and enforcement is an important part of our approach to tackling the problem. But enforcement has to be carried out fairly and transparently if we want people to continue to support our efforts to keep local communities clean.

“Since the contract began last year we have been working with Kingdom to address any concerns or complaints that have been raised, so we can try to make sure local people have confidence in their working practices.

“We are already in the process of reviewing the contract as part of our standard contract monitoring processes and we will be giving them a fair chance to respond to the concerns raised by the Panorama programme as part of that review. Once we have heard their side of the story, we will be in a better position to decide what action may be appropriate.”

Kingdom has been approached for comment.

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