A ‘lack of information’ into plans to shut up to four waste and recycling sites across the county, including Richborough, and/or reduce hours at 10 sites has led to county councillors agreeing to form a task group to produce a draft public consultation document.
Councillors met today to discuss plans to launch a 12 week consultation in July over the proposed closures which are part of authority budget cost-cutting measures.
Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Susan Carey told the meeting that action was needed towards budget savings of £55 million.
She said: “Back in February we agreed a budget which had a very clear line in that about reviewing the number and operations of Household Waste and Recycling Centres. I want to be very clear about this, this is a measure to save money as part of the painful savings that lay ahead of us.”
Cllr Carey said a 5% rise in council tax does not cover the costs ahead and to help achieve the £55m ‘savings’ £500,000 needed to cuts from waste centres this year and another £1 million next financial year.
She added: “The issue here is how do we make our savings with the least impact on all the residents of Kent.”
Three options have been put forward:
Option 1 closure of sites at Dartford, Richborough, Maidstone and Faversham
Option 2 closure of Faversham, Maidstone and Richborough and 10 sites not co-located with a transfer station to close for two days per week
Option 3 Closure of Dartford, Faversham and Richborough and 10 sites not co-located with a transfer station to close for two days per week.
It means all options would lead to the closure of some sites- with Richborough named in all three – with two options closing fewer sites but reducing the opening hours on a number of the remaining sites.
A 12-week consultation with the public and with other stakeholders takes place on these options in July.
‘Paucity of information’
But councillors said they could not make a decision on the consultation due to the ‘paucity’ of information in the report and no draft consultation document being included.
Lib Dem leader Antony Hook addressed the meeting to outline the shortfalls.
He said there was not enough financial detail and predicted savings should be broken down for each site. He questioned the predicted savings from paying business rates and workforce, pointing out that 50% of business rates would be received into the council budget and cutting workers would mean redundancy costs.
He raised the issue of capacity and whether remaining sites would cope with the extra footfall and he asked how pushing the burden of extra travel – both in cost and more pollution – on to residents could be justified.
Margate representative Barry Lewis said three choices, all including the closure of Richborough, was akin to “saying how would you like to be killed: hanged, shot or poisoned?”
He also said there would be a union backlash at imposing reduced hours, adding: “You’re heading for a major dispute with the unions if you implement any of these options.”
Thanet councillor Derek Crowe-Brown said closing Richborough would cause “absolute chaos” and be disastrous” pointing out there were already safety issues for people accessing Margate waste centre and an expected population rise due to housing developments.
Reduced hours and closures also raised concerns of fly tipping problems being forced onto district and borough councils.
A call for a fourth option of ‘spreading the pain’ across all sites, meaning a reduction in hours but no full closures, was also raised.
Dover’s Cllr Trevor Bond suggested a fresh report with all the required information and mapping out of long term effects be compiled and brought back to committee on July 5.
However, Cllr Carey was insistent that delays could lead to “bigger, more painful” cuts.
It was instead agreed that a task group of councillors across all parties would give input so a draft consultation document could be put together and brought to the committee ahead of the planned consultation launch on July 18.
KCC currently operates a network of 19 Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) spread across the county. The sites receive approximately 1.7m visits per year, with around 96,000 tonnes of material being managed through the network.
Usual myopic behaviour from the Maidstone Tories. Shutting Richborough will simply cause a lot more flytipping – plenty of unlit lanes and open fields around there. East Kent is again being treated as the poor relations. Cllr Lewis is correct to point out what a sham the “consultation” being proposed actually is. If the Tories cutters really want to save money how about not wasting any more cash on a defunct airport or on a ghost rail station that nobody wants? Or they could go back to their fast fading Government and demand more cash. When Northamptonshire County Council went bust, the Tories were forced to disband it and replace it with unitary authorities. Be a very good move if that happened down here!
I always use Richborough as I am sure many do from Ramsgate and the surrounding villages as well as Sandwich.
It is less likely to have traffic jams too.
The staff at Richborough are always very helpful, the site always clean and well-organised.
I find Margate frenetic and dirty and unsafe because it is over busy.
At Margate I have seen items placed in the wrong recycling containers.
If it is a question of usage, a second question has to be the quality of recycled materials that don’t get contaminated and are thus either useless or worth less.
I would also suggest that new people don’t necessarily know where Richborough is.
KCC will have all the stats the Councillors will need to make an informed decision.
We don’t close parks for a lack of footfall, this is an unhelpful criteria for closing Richborough which has been threatened before.
It wouldn’t happen in Tonbridge Wells!
The real shame is Thanet doesn’t have an MP to represent it on matters like this. It’s a scandal a place like Thanet isn’t represented by an MP. It’s why we are so often forgotten about.
Hopefully at the next election we get one.
Thanet has 2 MPs Roger Gale and Craig McKinlay. We can debate how useless they are but Thanet people did vote for them
What do you mean”The people of Thanet do not have an M.P. to represent them?Have we become disenfranchised?
I noticed the Tory KCC councillors have dropped the term “Efficiency Cuts”. I have always seen this as an oxymoron, with the emphasis on moron! How can you cut a public service and say its more efficient, Duuurh!
I tend to think that those who go to the trouble of taking waste to recycling centres are, on the whole, unlikely to resort to fly-tipping. Perhaps that’s what the KCC councillors are cynically counting on. But regardless of that assumption what is required is, very obviously, MORE facilities and schemes for waste disposal, not fewer.