Street wardens prove their worth
By Ted JeoryPIONEERING street wardens celebrating the first anniversary of town centre patrols are helping to recover nearly £60,000 in unpaid tax – half of their annual cost.
By Ted Jeory
PIONEERING street wardens celebrating the first anniversary of town centre patrols are helping to recover nearly £60,000 in unpaid tax – half of their annual cost.
Colchester's distinctively uniformed wardens, who began patrolling the town's streets last May as part of a two-year nationwide pilot scheme, have won high praise after reporting almost 400 unlicensed vehicles to the DVLA in Swansea, which is now in the process of recouping the money.
Earlier this year, the £125,000-a-year team of four wardens and one supervisor was singled out by government inspectors and named regional champions for their efforts and good practice.
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Although they have no powers of arrest, the full time council employees have acted as a high profile presence in the town centre, Harbour and New Town areas, gathering information and working closely with the police tackling drug crime, litterlouts and general antisocial behaviour.
They have beaten almost all targets laid down by supervisors of the joint Government-Colchester Borough Council venture, falling short only in fines issued to litterlouts and that is only because their presence has acted a deterrence.
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The original team of wardens have all left during the year – one went to the police and another to Customs and Excise – but council operations services manager Robert Needham said it was now a stable team.
He said: “I'm delighted at their success. The team really do help the make the area a better place.
“They have been well received by the public because they are agents of action – they deal with the things that people care about. If they see offensive graffiti on a wall for example they will call to have it removed that day.
“We have learnt a lot in the past year,” he added.
Colchester MP Bob Russell, who serves on the Home Affairs Select Committee and who helped design the scheme after seeing something similar in Holland, said: “They do an excellent job and I'm very pleased that they are paying for themselves, but they are too thin on the ground and in too few parts of the town.
“They need to be extended and expanded and I would also like to see them fall under the police's umbrella rather than the council's – people associate uniforms more with the police even though they may be doing some council related work.”