Spend­ing squeeze threat to com­mu­nity war­dens

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kent Business Update -

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.

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