Community warden: town council rejects idea

Employing a community warden would be a “piece of fluff” to cover over the cuts in Police Community Support Officers.

That was how Cllr Barry Mayhew, Liberal Democrat, New Town, summed up his opposition to Uckfield Town Council employing a community warden.

He said: “I think this smells like because of the cuts they are doing to the PCSOs, this is a bit of fluff to go over it.

“They will have no power.”

More details of the debate towards the end of this story.

Yesterday (July 4) we published the following:

Uckfield Town Council is being offered the chance to apply for funding towards recruiting a community warden as part of a pilot scheme being run across Sussex.uckfield-town-council-un

The scheme, set up by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, would run for two years with 50% part-funding of potential £30,000 costs in year one and 25% part-funding in year two.

A report going to Uckfield Town Council tonight says a community warden – or two part-timers – would provide a “highly visible” uniformed presence within the community.

It continues: “They can work in partnership with Sussex Police and the local anti-social behaviour team, to tackle issues of crime and anti-social behaviour, deter crime and anti-social behaviour, and help to reduce the fear of crime within a community.”

Parking tickets

But the powers of community wardens would be limited. They would not be able to issue parking tickets or enforce parking contraventions and would only have a citizen’s power of arrest.

“However,” the report says, “they are uniformed, could have priority access to the police and community safety agencies and could monitor vehicle movements in and out of on-street parking spaces, as well as issue advice or guidance sternly to road users thought to be ignoring on-street signage,” says the report.

Additional equipment

Uckfield Town Council would have to consider how it could help fund the post, or posts, and any additional equipment, or future vehicle use/car allowance. The warden would typically be uniformed in black, with steel toe cap boots and some form of hi-vis jacket.

The warden would be directly employed by the town council and the report says that once the role was more established it might be possible to share the warden with neighbouring parishes for a set number of hours per week from year two onwards to assist with covering costs.

The report to the council says: “If the scheme were to expand Uckfield Town Council could become the hub for these roles on behalf of a cluster of parishes. This would enable costs to be shared and would create capacity.”

Recommendations

Councillors are being asked to consider the advantages and disadvantages of taking part in the pilot and either:

  • agree not to proceed at the present time but monitor the progress made by the first of the pilot schemes;
  •  agree to proceed with the pilot, apply for funding and undertake preparatory work for the recruitment of this role; or
  • agree to the principle of the initiative, but explore other options with partner agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce and consider the best approach to meet the needs of the town.

Update:

At last night’s town council meeting, it was agreed not to proceed at the present time but monitor the progress made by the first of the pilot schemes.

Cllr Diane Ward, Trust Independent, Central Ward, said people supported the idea until they learned the warden would not be able to enforce on-street parking restrictions.

“I am really dubious at the moment at spending this type of money without knowing full details when last year we wanted to get extra bins and empty them, which is something the townspeople wanted and  we were told basically you can’t have it because we can’t afford it.

“Where are we going to get this type of money from?”

Cllr Helen Firth, Conservative, Central Ward, said: “It is a waste of money for someone who has no authority whatsover.”

She said the situation with regard to parking enforcement might change and the council could be asked to help fund a traffic warden.

Deputy town mayor, Cllr Duncan Bennett, Trust Independent, New Town, said the position, as it stands, was that the person would have “too many hats”.

“We would like an environment warden; we discussed that previously.

“We would really like a PCSO in the town but they have taken that away. When we were offered the chance to pay for one, we were told you can have one but you will have to share that person where the need is greatest.

“This is cut-price policing without any statutory powers. It doesn’t cover any of the bases we hoped to cover in the past,” he said.

Cllr Paul Sparks, Liberal Democrat, North Ward, said it was unlikely Uckfield would get a traffic warden because Wealden District Council has declined to decriminalise parking and keep off-street parking free to help shops thrive.

Cllr Ian Smith, Independent, Ridgewood, said it might be possible to have someone and “turn the job into something we want as we go along”.

He pointed out the scheme initially was for two years, after which the council could pull out.

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