MP backs neighbourhood warden scheme

Nick Herbert with Pulborough wardens Carol Boniface and Vanessa Green
Nick Herbert with Pulborough wardens Carol Boniface and Vanessa Green

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has backed a scheme to employ neighbourhood wardens in Storrington and Sullington.

The scheme – put forward by Horsham District Council – is currently in the consultation phase with Storrington and Sullington Parish Council asking residents whether they would like to see the scheme implemented or not.

Nick Herbert

Nick Herbert

The two-year pilot scheme has been estimated to cost £140,000 with £30,000 provided by the district council in a one-off grant. The remaining £110,000 would be provided by an increased council tax of £17 per year from 2019.

Supporting it, Mr Herbert pointed towards the success of a similar scheme in neighbouring villages such as Pulborough.

He said: “I am a strong supporter of neighbourhood wardens. I can see the benefits in other villages in my constituency where they have been a great success and have strong local support. I welcome Storrington and Sullington Parish Council’s decision to consult on a scheme and I would certainly encourage residents to support wardens.

“Wardens are not a substitute for police officers, although I know that Sussex Police welcome the scheme, but they can really help to deal with issues like antisocial behaviour and community reassurance. It’s significant that every village which has taken on wardens has decided to retain them, for many years in the case of Steyning and Ashington.”

Last month Greg Charman, the district council’s community safety manager, presented the scheme to Storrington and Sullington’s residents. The parish council is now considering the merits of the scheme and assessing whether there would be local support to increase the parish precept to fund two wardens.

Parish councillors will be sending a consultation card to every household in the village to give residents two weeks to respond with their views. Feedback from the consultation will inform the council’s discussions at its next meeting in August.

Last November, Mr Herbert met Pulborough’s two wardens Carol Boniface and Vanessa Green and praised their work by saying he was ‘immensely impressed’ by their community engagement. Carol and Vanessa have been wardens to Pulborough and Nutbourne for two years and their role has included activities from enforcement to community development. They have also been tasked with promoting community cohesion and stemming anti-social behaviour.

The chairman of Pulborough Parish Council Ray Quested said employing wardens had a ‘profound effect on the village as a whole from within all age groups’ and residents were ‘seeing and reporting the benefit of their presence’.

What are neighbourhood wardens?

Here is an excerpt from the meeting, provided by the parish council, where the public presentation was made by Greg Charman, community safety officer at Horsham District Council, along with a record of the question and answer session that took place.

Mr Charman made clear that neighbourhood wardens would not be a replacement for the police. He described them as ‘responsible guardians’ who provide a visible presence to help deter crime but also report faults, engage with residents and visitors and support community initiatives and events.

Q. Who do Wardens Report to?

A. Horsham District Council is their employer but 90 per cent of their time is spent in the parish.

Q. What happened to the dedicated PCSOs?

A. PCSOs were introduced in 2003 with dedicated officers in the villages. However in 2016, changes to the Neighbourhood Policing team meant that there was a reduction of PCSOs and there is now a team of seven officers working together to tackle issues across the whole of the district.

Q. Are the hours of work a set pattern?

A. There are two week shift patterns but these are flexible and can be amended to meet the needs of the parish. Wardens can work alone during the day but must work together during late shifts.

Q. Is cover provided for sickness or other absences?

A. No there are no resources to provide cover for absences.

Q. If one Warden is off sick or on holiday – does that mean that the other one cannot do any late shifts?

A. If there was a particular issue that needed to be dealt with such as anti-social behaviour, the warden could call upon support from the Neighbourhood Policing team or other HDC officers to deal with that issue.

The idea of joint working between wardens from different parishes was muted but comments were made that if the parish council was paying for the wardens they would expect them to spend all of their working time in the area.

Q. If the Wardens are district council employees, why isn’t HDC covering the cost?

A. The wardens will predominantly be working within the parish and HDC is committed to working with individual communities to solve local issues. Some parish councils are not equipped to deal with staffing matters, payroll, governance and accountability so makes sense for HDC to cover these and other overarching responsibilities.

Q. What evidence is there that the service is required in this parish? How do we know that there are vulnerable people that require help? How often are there incidents of anti-social behaviour?

A. Each scheme is tailored to meet the needs and requirements of the individual community and this is why the parish council is represented on the steering group that draws up and reviews the action plan. Local knowledge and information would inform the role of the warden but it is essential that local research is undertaken to establish the key areas to be addressed.

Q. What area does the warden cover?

A. Each neighbourhood warden scheme would cover the relevant parish boundary.

Q. If a neighbourhood warden contacted the police about a non-urgent matter, would they be more likely to respond than if contacted by a member of the public about the same issue.

A. It is imperative that the wardens are not used as a reporting mechanism for criminal matters that should be directed to the police. However, there is the potential that the warden might be able to provide extra information which would provide the police with evidence to act.