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Penalty for Urbaser after bin collection problems in Tonbridge, Malling and Tunbridge Wells

The company behind bin collections in two boroughs has been fined after months of collection woes.

Urbaser took charge of new bin collections in Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells back in October, which have since been described as a "fiasco".

Rubbish in Rock Road, Borough Green (26231259)
Rubbish in Rock Road, Borough Green (26231259)

After three months of problems, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council have decided to bring in financial penalties against Urbaser, warning fines could rise should problems continue.

In a written letter to Javier Peiro, Urbaser MD, TMBC's chief executive Julie Beilby wrote: "The time for excuses and apologies is over.

"Neither council can allow the situation to continue."

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council apologised in October, less than two weeks into the new system.

The apology came after Urbaser missed 1,133 homes in its first week.

Rubbish in Rock Road, Borough Green (26231246)
Rubbish in Rock Road, Borough Green (26231246)

As the scheme enters its fourth month, it appears to have worsened.

TMBC explained crews normally pick up from around 10,000 homes every day, on the worst days up to 10% of homes (1,000) are being missed.

One road in Borough Green has had no recycling waste collected since December 9, a resident of Rock Road told the KentOnline: "Because of the format of our houses, we share a path to the back with our neighbours, so it means two houses' worth block the path, so the missed collections mean it's blocking our neighbours children from getting to the back garden as they usually use that route."

Greg Lawson has lived on the road with his family of four for two years, he said: “Collections are the worst they have ever been.

“We’ve noticed that the food waste bin isn’t big enough for us, and there’s just four of us.”

This week there have been more problems.

Rubbish in Rock Road, Borough Green (26231252)
Rubbish in Rock Road, Borough Green (26231252)

Refuse and food rounds were not completed in Borough Green and Snodland. Recycling and food rounds were not completed in some parts of Ightham, Shipbourne, Tonbridge, Plaxtol, Platt, Crouch, Wrotham, West Malling, East Malling and Leybourne.

Cllr Michelle Tatton, for Larkfield and East Malling, said: "Prior to Christmas we had a few properties in the outlying areas of East Malling that had not received any collections at all since the service began because the properties had not found their way onto Urbaser’s system which is quite astonishing as properties don’t tend to go missing.

"Some elderly or disabled residents who had previously been on a pull-out system because they could not manage to move the bins themselves found that a service that had previously worked well became non-existent. I thought in the few weeks running up to Christmas there had been some improvement.

"Unfortunately it is obvious that Urbaser has not been able to cope with the volume of waste from the Christmas and New Year. Whatever resources they have allocated are just not adequate.We shouldn’t be having these problems three months after the contract started."

As it plays catch up with its missed collections, Urbaser has put on extra resources, vehicles and staff "at its own expense," Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council claim.

Cllr Michelle Tatton has been listening to bin collection complaints from East Malling and Larkfield residents. Picture: Matthew Walker
Cllr Michelle Tatton has been listening to bin collection complaints from East Malling and Larkfield residents. Picture: Matthew Walker

A spokeswoman from the authority, said: "We recognise that our waste collection service has been unreliable and apologise to residents who have been affected.

"We are not willing to allow this situation to continue and have formally written to our contractor to inform them that we are triggering financial penalty clauses in our contract and that we will not hesitate to impose further penalties should the situation not improve.

"In the meantime we are drafting in additional extra staff to help deal with reports of missed collections and also deploying more inspectors to monitor daily waste collection rounds."

In Deakin Leas, Tonbridge, Jacky Gerety has watched her rubbish be left behind as her neighbours is taken.

She said: "Bins have been left sprawled across the path or outside the wrong house. I have actually watched them throwing the bins back. We had actually ordered two brown bins due to lots of garden waste, they did deliver two but took one back a few weeks later. Spoke to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council and they were supposed to deliver a new one, but we're still waiting."

Julie Beilby's letter to Urbaser
Julie Beilby's letter to Urbaser

Julie Beilby's letter reads: "We always appreciated that the new waste partnership scheme would take some time to bed in and that some teething problems were to be expected.

"However we are now three months into the new arrangements and neither council has seen seen the necessary improvements, despite numerous assurances at the many meetings that have been held.

"Our residents expect regular and reliable waste collection and are justifiably frustrated that they are not getting it."

Another part of it reads: "Having already issued a number of default notices, both councils intend to trigger financial penalty clauses in the contract in the hope that this focuses minds on this very serious problem.

"We will not hesitate to continue to impose additional penalties should the situation not improve.

"I should stress that we want to work constructively with Urbaser to deliver a first-class service."

Tom Tugendhat and Tracey Crouch have written to the council, expressing their deep concerns over the state of current collections.

We have approached Urbaser for comment.

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