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Two Kent borough councils fine bin collection company Urbaser for 'poor performance'

Two Kent councils have threatened to issue further fines to the firm behind 'terrible' bin collections in their boroughs if the service does not improve.

Residents have complained about missed collections, bin lorries leaving trails of litter behind them, and even being sworn at by refuse collectors.

Recycling and cardboard collections previously missed by Urbaser
Recycling and cardboard collections previously missed by Urbaser

Urbaser, the firm the councils hired to carry out the works, took over in March 2019 and has been plagued by blunders from the outset, even being fined last year after skipping up to 1,000 collections a day.

Now, the leaders of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (TMBC) have issued further fines to Urbaser and will continue to challenge bosses.

The latest penalty comes just days after MPs Tom Tugendhat and Tracey Crouch stepped in after frequent complaints and wrote a letter to TMBC insisting more needs to be done to tackle the continued problem of missed rounds and litter coated verges.

Council leaders Nicolas Heslop and Tom Dawlings today released a joint statement.

It says: "We are very concerned about the issues that some residents are experiencing with the waste collection service and apologise to those who are affected.

Tom Dawlings and Nicolas Heslop
Tom Dawlings and Nicolas Heslop

"We are in discussions with our contractor Urbaser about resolving these problems and delivering the waste collection and recycling service our residents expect.

"Both councils expect Urbaser to meet its contractual obligations in full and we are issuing financial penalties for poor performance where appropriate and in accordance with the terms of the contract.

"We will continue to apply pressure at senior levels at Urbaser to ensure the contract terms are delivered and will consider all options available to achieve that objective."

It has not been revealed how many fines have been issued or how much they will cost.

The news has been welcomed by resident Deborah Rowe from Blue Bell Hill who has been a volunteer litter picker in the village for 15 years.

Deborah Rowe goes litter picking with dog Ammie in Blue Bell Hill
Deborah Rowe goes litter picking with dog Ammie in Blue Bell Hill

She says she is fed up with constantly having to clean up, even after the lorries have been.

The 63-year-old added: "I go out for a walk in the morning with my dog and a litter bag, and quite often I follow the lorries and it's incredible what they drop.

"Every few yards there's paper and cardboard so I can end up with half a carrier bag of waste which I then have to put back in my own recycling bin.

"It's like they just don't care."

Kasmir Cheema, who is the chairman of Friends Of Blue Bell Hill, said it is about time something is done to tackle the problem which has been a 'constant battle'.

Maureen Housden from Walderslade
Maureen Housden from Walderslade

The 62-year-old said: "They are rude, they swear at us and if people complain, they just drop rubbish on the floor.

"It has got to the stage where people are so disillusioned by it.

"The problem is we can't go elsewhere for a better service and we can’t withhold our council tax because we'll be taken to court.

"Some people are at the end of their tether.

"We never had problems up until 2019. Now they're terrible and we just want a proper service every week."

Maureen Housden, 82, said even this week there have been problems as the scheduled Monday collection was missed.

Mrs Housden, who has lived in Tunbury Avenue in Walderslade for 14 years, said: "I rang the council in the afternoon to find out why and they said it was because of a lack of vehicles.

"Or boxes are constantly broken and bins end up halfway down the road. We never really know when they will be collected."

The bins were instead emptied on Wednesday.

Urbaser has been approached for comment.

Read more: All the latest news from Tonbridge

Read more: All the latest news from Tunbridge Wells

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