A community group that has been cleaning the streets for two and a half years says it is “unable to fight anymore” after “unacceptable” rubbish collection rule changes.
The Lordswood and Walderslade Community Litter Group has collected more than 5,000 bags of rubbish since it was set up in March 2021.
After litter picks, the volunteers would leave the bags by any waste bin and the council would arrange for them to be collected.
They would also pick up discarded tyres and things that had been fly-tipped, such as wood and furniture.
However on Monday, September 18, group leaders attended a meeting with Ian Gilmore, head of environmental services at Medway Council, and Cllr Simon Curry, portfolio holder for climate change and strategic regeneration, when they were told of the changes.
They were told the council would set up five to seven designated collection points across Lordswood and Walderslade where bags would need to be taken. They would be collected on a Tuesday and Thursday only.
In a statement, the litter group said: “We find that this is totally unacceptable as people would need to deliver bags to these points and report any larger items that would not fit in a bag separately as fly-tipping.
“We have fought and fought over the past few weeks and highlighted to the council why this just will not work but without success. We are unable to fight anymore.
“We cannot tell you how upset and disappointed we feel.
“Despite advertising as a cleaner greener Medway and ‘Keeping Medway Clean and Green’ it would seem that the resources are not available to collect our bags from next to bins in line with their scheduled emptying of the waste bins on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“We want to say a massive thank you to everyone in our groups for your support and friendship throughout the last two and a half years.”
The group has been supported by Conservative group leader Cllr Adrian Gulvin who says he is “disappointed” at the rule changes.
He explained: “I’ve been out with them a couple times on litter picks because I really admire them, they’ve done a really fantastic job over the last few years in keeping the area nice and neat and tidy.
“We’ve had this bombshell in the last couple of weeks that the council is no longer willing to help them out in a reasonable way in collecting the bags.
“It has worked pretty well over the last couple of years. They’ve done a great job and done it to a high standard.
“They’ve been told it’s no longer affordable to collect the bags with the present arrangements, so what was offered instead was that they could leave the bags at between five and seven picking up areas by a bin across the whole area.
“That is just not viable and also they weren’t going to pick up the other things, just the black bags.
“It sounds like a small change until you think about it but Lordswood and Walderslade and Princes Park is a huge area to expect people to move stuff even if you had the maximum of seven points.
“You’re talking about walking with a lot of heavy bags a long long distance, or people putting it in their cars.”
He said the group was good on “so many levels” and its termination will be a huge loss to the community.
He explained: “To lose it just for the sake of four or five thousand pounds a year which is what it would cost to clear these sacks away, it’s just ridiculous.
“The litter has to be picked up anyway, to me it was a win win situation.”
The council said leaving black sacks and other items next to litter bins could give fly-tippers the opportunity to add to the waste, and that scavenging animals could also split the bags next to the bins.
It is encouraging residents to report litter here.
Cllr Simon Curry said: “We recognise and thank the Lordswood and Walderslade Community Litter Group for the work they are doing and will we continue to offer them our support to find a sustainable solution.
“I have met with the group and discussed a few different options for how we collect the sacks from them.
“There are groups across Medway doing similar work and they all make a huge difference to their communities and the quality of life in Medway.
“Ultimately, though we urge people not to litter. Take your rubbish home and dispose of it the most appropriate way.”
Medway Council was asked by KentOnline how much money the new arrangements will save.