Town's street wardens under threat
By Liz HearnshawTHE future of valued service providing the police with “an extra pair of eyes and ears” could hang in jeopardy if new funding is not secured, a leading councillor has warned.
By Liz Hearnshaw
THE future of valued service providing the police with “an extra pair of eyes and ears” could be in jeopardy if new funding is not secured, a leading councillor has warned.
Ray Nowak fears the street wardens of Bury St Edmunds may become a thing of the past when Government cash, which has half-funded the innovation for the past three years, runs out.
Although both Suffolk County Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council have said they were “currently exploring” options for continuing and expanding the scheme, neither has yet committed to stumping up more cash.
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“We know from the evidence on graffiti and general behaviour problems in the town that there is far less of it than there used to be - and you can pinpoint that reduction to the dates when the street wardens were introduced,” said Mr Nowak, who serves on the county council.
“But by April, we will have no street wardens - unless the county and borough find the money the Government were providing which is no longer there.
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“It seems pretty vital we continue it and I am 99% confident we will be able to take up the lion's share of the shortfall of Government funding at the county council.
“It will then depend on St Edmundsbury to say it will dig deep into its coffers. But if people keep dilly-dallying about, we are going to lose the street wardens who do a very good job.
“The community and the general public see these wardens as a friendly face and value them greatly. I think it will be a great shame if they are lost.”
The scheme was launched in 2002, when the wardens took to the streets of Bury St Edmunds in their distinctive bottle-green uniforms.
Funding from the borough and county council was matched by the Government to meet the initiative's £500,000 price tag.
An annual £10,000 contribution has also been made to the project by Mr Nowak and fellow county councillors Trevor Beckwith and Stefan Oliver, who have each given a portion of their locality budgets to the running costs.
Suffolk police have also welcomed the scheme, with a spokesman saying the wardens provided “a useful service as part of the policing family”.
He added: “They act as an extra pair of eyes and ears and as ambassadors to the town centre.”
A spokesman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said all the options would be explored with regards to the project's future before funding ran out at the end of the current financial year.
Its overview and scrutiny committee will also discuss the matter tomorrow before making a recommendation to the cabinet.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said it was currently looking at the potential for continuing and expanding the scheme.
“Reports will be submitted to St Edmundsbury Borough Council in the very near future and will then be subject to its budget-setting processes,” he added.