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Newspaper exposes high price of bins and benches

The high price of designer benches and fancy stainless steel rubbish bins for a town development were uncovered by a south-east weekly newspaper.

A Freedom of Information request by KM Group title the Kentish Express uncovered how millions of pounds of public money were spent on upgrades for the ring road in Ashford.

KM Group political editor Paul Francis unearthed details of how £15.9million was spent on redesigning the ring road, leading to a front page exclusive.

It follows an earlier story in which he had reported how “designer” streetlights which formed part of a controversial “shared space” scheme, in which motorists and pedestrians have equal priority, had cost £7,000 each.

The new information revealed how stainless steel rubbish bins cost nearly £1,500 each, compared to just £150 for standard bins; designer benches had cost £1,870 each and more than 30 wooden bollards had cost more than £31,000.

In an inside two-page spread, the Express also disclosed how 85 trees planted around the town centre had cost nearly £45,000 and how a large sculpture shaped like a bolt, installed at one of the junctions, had cost £13,000.

It also reported how four bus shelters in the town centre had cost £91,000.

The re-development of the town’s ring road and the introduction of a shared space element have been largely funded by central government and Kent County Council.

In its story, the Express quotes Coun Keith Ferrin, KCC’s cabinet councillor responsible for highways, as saying: “My own view is that this stuff has cost a fortune and it is not justified and should not have happened.”

In an editorial, Kentish Express editor Robert Barman wrote: “Taxpayers will look at certain items and wonder whether the same result could have been achieved at a fraction of the price.”