Spending squeeze threat to community wardens
Kent County Council could be cutting the number of community wardens that patrol towns and villages because of a spending squeeze.
The community wardens service has been regarded as a success since it was introduced more than 10 years ago but now faces the possibility of a reduction in numbers.
The council refused to comment on reports that as many as 27 of the 83 wardens currently in post – nearly a third – could lose their jobs.
But it confirmed a review was under way as part of a wider examination of all council services as it faced up to the need to save £330m over the next three years. The KM Group has been told wardens have been notified some jobs could be on the line as £1.2m needs to be saved from its budget. Spending on wardens was frozen last year, with a recruitment freeze meaning that any vacancies were left unfilled.
The initiative has been credited with helping curb low-level crime and successfully tackling anti-social behaviour in towns and villages.
Despite not having any powers of arrest, part of the wardens’ role is to act as the “eyes and ears” of the police. They patrol mainly on foot and provide visible reassurance to residents.
KCC said no decision had yet been taken but confirmed changes to the service, including a cut in numbers, was among options on the table.
In a statement, the council said: “KCC is undertaking a series of reviews across all departments, including the community warden service, in order to address the challenge of saving £330 million over the next three years.
“Among several options being discussed and considered is a reduction in the number of wardens, managers and support staff in the service. This would be accompanied by a reorganisation which would result in continuing support for communities in different ways, with the possibility of reaching and serving more residents.
“However, no decisions have yet been taken, either on the preferred course of action, or the timing of any public consultation, if one is deemed necessary and desirable.”
KCC was the first authority in the country to introduce the concept of community wardens in 2003.
Wardens in Kent operate every day of the week, between 7.30am and 10pm in 129 Kent communities.
They were initially introduced in rural areas but have over the years been extended to larger towns.