Neighbourhood warden scheme would ‘increase council tax by £17 per year’

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Residents in Storrington and Sullington would be charged an extra £17 per year from 2019 if the majority chose to approve a neighbourhood warden scheme, according to the parish council.

The proposal – put forward by Horsham District Council towards the end of 2017 – is for a two person team of wardens for a two year pilot scheme.

The scheme was estimated to cost £140,000 – £30,000 of which would be provided by Horsham District Council in a one-off grant.

The remaining £110,000 would have to be provided by the parish council resulting in each household having to pay an extra £17 per year from 2019.

This would be in addition to any other increases that may be applied for other reasons by the parish, district or county councils as well as the police.

Storrington Parish Council said: “This subject was discussed at January’s parish council meeting where it became clear that councillors were split on this decision. As the possibility of implementing this scheme would have a direct impact upon taxpayers, it was decided that our community should be consulted as to whether they would support the increase to council tax in order to have wardens.

“A public presentation on the role of wardens took place at the annual parish meeting on May 2 where representatives of Horsham District Council and wardens from other parishes were available to answer questions.”

The parish council said a consultation card would be sent to every household later this month giving people two weeks to return their card to various outlets in the parish.

The parish council will then review the results of the consultation and decide upon the matter at its meeting on August 29.

The parish council added: “The role of the neighbourhood wardens can be tailored to meet the individual needs of the community that they serve.

“Whilst they would be employed by Horsham District Council, the parish council would be represented on a steering group that would regularly meet to review the priorities of the wardens and set their working objectives.”

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.