Published: 06:00, 18 July 2021
The newly elected leader of Tonbridge and Malling council is one of youngest serving in the country and is having to get to grips with an age-old problem: Bins.
Cllr Keane Duncan had held the title of youngest when he was elected as leader of Ryedale District Council in 2019 aged 24, but he resigned from the post in March this year.
The Conservatives have a large majority on the authority holding 39 of the 54 seats and Cllr Boughton was elected with 35 votes for, none against, and nine opposition party members abstained.
But there is one issue he has had to get up to speed on quickly: Bin collections. The council's contractor, Urbaser, has experienced problems in finding HGV drivers for shifts which led to backlogs in bin collections.
To catch up, a two-week suspension of recycling collections was authorised but on Tuesday, the day collections were meant to resume, some collections were again missed.
All this came after Tonbridge and Malling fined Urbaser after it got four days behind on collections last month.
Speaking to KMTV, Cllr Boughton described it as an 'unacceptable' service so far and said: "We can only apologise."
He added: "My immediate priority is to get up to speed and make clear decisions going forward. Nothing is off the table and nothing is discounted. "People have waited far too long.
“We are in the middle of a bin crisis; it’s an issue that is dominating all our post-bags.”
He said he was appointing Cllr Piers Montague to the cabinet post of Technical and Waste Services to “find a solution to the problems we are experiencing, which are of the highest concern to all our residents.”
In his acceptance speech, he praised the work of his predecessor Cllr Heslop, who had run the council for the past nine years, particularly for his achievements in bringing investment into the borough.
But Cllr Boughton then went onto promise a “different administration.”
He said: “There are many challenges to tackle and we will do so fairly. But there are also exciting times ahead and many changes to make for communities across the area.”
He promised to “take party politics out of the decision-making” and to work co-operatively with opposition parties for the good of the borough.
To that end, he said, he had already arranged a meeting with opposition group leaders next week to discuss their aspirations and ideas for the borough.
Announcing his appointments to cabinet positions, he said there would be a new cabinet portfolio for Environment and Climate Change, led by Cllr Robin Betts.
But Cllr Boughton said he didn’t want his administration to be “dominated by the cabinet” and hoped that members of the five advisory boards would play a full role in challenging cabinet decisions and developing policy.
Cllr Boughton said: “It’s time to re-assess our priorities and to that end we are going out with a new public consultation to find a new vision for Tonbridge and Malling.”
He said he hoped all businesses and residents would give their views on the way forward.
On the Local Plan, Cllr Boughton promised a new determination to find brownfield sites for development, rather than using greenfield land.
He added: “We will be a listening authority, not one that imposes its views on the residents.”
Cllr Boughton, who lives in Whitefriars Wharf, Tonbridge, and represents Medway Ward, has only been a Tonbridge and Malling councillor since May 2019.
He had previously served as Conservative councillor on Maidstone Borough Council, representing Fant Ward from 2015 to 2019. He lived in Maidstone at the time, with his parents.
That was a by-election sparked by the death Cllr Alistair Black.
Cllr Boughton secured the seat for the Tories after the vacancy was created by the sudden death of Cllr Black in 2015.
Back then he was just 22, and at the time he was the youngest councillor sitting in the chamber. However, he was not the youngest ever to be elected- that record is still held by Cllr Stephen Paine who was five months younger than Cllr Boughton when he first joined the council.
Cllr Boughton has also worked as a case worker for Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat. He was educated at Oakwood Grammar School in Maidstone and has a politics degree from Sussex University.
Asked back in 2015 whether at 22, he had the experience to solve the town's problems, he said: “Look, age is just a number. What we have is people with a considerable mix of experiences on the council and I hope I can add my own experience to the equation for the better governance of people."
As Cllr Heslop resigned mid-way through his four-year term of office, Cllr Boughton has just the two remaining years of that period to fulfil his promises before he faces re-election in May 2023.
Cllr Heslop is remaining as a back-bench councillor.