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MBC Councillor Patrik Garten’s Latest Newsletter – 25 September 2023

25/09/2023

Cllr Patrik Garten 1

What, another month passed already?  Where did it go?  Cabinet spent quite a bit of time working on a Town Centre Strategy to make Maidstone fit for the future.  Town centres are changing the world over, Maidstone is no exception.  Maidstone Town Centre has a lot to offer.  The capital of Kent is an attractive place for all Maidstone residents and tourists alike and we want it to stay that way and improve it.  Some plans are very ambitious and long term, others have been identified as cheap quick fixes with instant outcomes.  Plans have now been shared with all members, and the Policy Advisory Committees will soon put their two senses to it.  Watch this space….

Bin-Gate

Am I biased reporting about bins?  The second newsletter in a row on this subject.  Well, bins featured in many Councillors’ in-boxes lately:

In April an operational decision was taken by officers to charge for replacement wheelie-bins.  This was due to a little side note, which found its way into this year’s budget.

MBC’s officers are hard working and thinking on their feet.  (Don’t believe all those urban myths you hear about public employees!)  They identified a clear abuse of our previously generous bin replacement policy: Some residents merely requested a new bin because their old one was a bit smelly or looked a bit used.  So, officers’ clever idea was to charge for bin replacements and to save the taxpayer £100,000.  ‘Great idea!’  you may say, but beware of unintended consequences:

Since April 1453 bin replacements were eligible for payment.  This led to an unusually high complaints rate close to 10%.  Residents were not happy!  Not only did many have their bins refused for collection because they were no longer safe, but they were asked to pay for new bins when allegedly the bin-men broke them.  There was lots of argument and appeals whether the lorry’s CCTV showed the bin being damaged by the machine or not.  The bin industry code EN840 was consulted about bin’s design capacity, overloading and sun-resistance of the plastic.  Complaints persisted…

On a positive side, we saw a 40% reduction in bin replacement requests compared with last year.  While we were clearly weeding out the vanity requests, we upset the honest residents.  So back to the drawing board !  MBC can’t get everything right first time and I apologise for any upset, but this administration is keen to listen to the residents and we are willing to learn.

As of Monday 25 September, if collection crews find bins no longer fit for operational purposes or even a danger to themselves, they will automatically order a new one, free of charge to the resident.

In short: if the bin crews think your bin is no longer fit for purpose, they will order a new one at the taxpayer’s expense.  If you want a replacement bin for any other reason, you’ll have to pay!   I hope this compromise will put an end to this saga and free up members’ in-boxes.  Of course we’ll keep the issue under review.  Please mark your bin with your house number and / or postcode. Lost bins are still chargeable.

 

Waste Crime Fixed Penalty Notices

My colleagues and I spent many years lobbying our MPs to give local authorities more powers and allow us to charge higher fines for fly-tipping and littering.  In July the Government heeded our prayers and I immediately instructed officers to draw up a new Fixed Penalty Notice Policy.   A resident recently wrote to me and asked if we could put fly-tippers in stocks and have waste thrown at them.  While I can’t say that I dislike this suggestion, the legislator didn’t go quite that far.  The new maximum level for littering is £500 and for fly-tipping the penalty will be £1000. 

There is also a fine of £500 under S34 of the Environmental Protection Act for householders who employ unlicensed waste carriers.  If you have waste removed, make sure that you are shown the waste carrier’s licence and be given a copy of the waste transfer notice.  If your waste should be found in a fly-tip and you don’t have this document you’ll get fined!

However, a £500 littering fine would be considered excessive for a single cigarette-end or the like carelessly thrown away in the Town Centre for example.  Therefore, I proposed to introduce two levels of Fixed Penalties for both littering and fly tipping which are based on the impact to the environment and local community.  

The message is simple: If  you want to mess in Maidstone we’ll make you pay!   All revenue from the fines will be reinvested into our waste crime team.  The more culprits we catch, the bigger and more efficient our enforcement team will get.  Win, win!

Not long ago did we recruit a new waste crime manager, who had years of previous experience in the police.  Now, we no longer impound vehicles, which were involved in fly-tipping or littering, merely to return them back to the owner after some minor aggro but our manager started to impound and crush vehicles!  I already voiced my desire for an arty sculpture made of crushed vehicles J

 

And finally …

Local businesses are struggling due to the ongoing works at Junction 5 M2.  Therefore a reminder: Stockbury is open for business !

PATRIK GARTEN      

MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward  (Conservative)

Cabinet Member for Environmental Services

 

Phone: 01622-807907