Wardens hit back at threat to stop community work

STREET wardens have slammed a report drawn up by their Camden Council bosses which calls for them to stop their community work and hand out litter fines

Katie Davies

STREET wardens have slammed a report drawn up by their Camden Council bosses which calls for them to stop their community work and hand out litter fines.

The report, leaked exclusively to the Ham&High in November, said wardens were spending too much time helping elderly people and running youth activities.

It said such community work should be dumped and officers should instead hand out fixed penalty notices for "enviro-crimes" such as dropping cigarette butts and failing to clear up dog mess.

Two wardens at the Camden Town team have now spoken out against the plans.

Senior warden for the area Ben Hayday said: "I fundamentally disagreed when I read that report. Everything which it said we should be doing we shouldn't, and everything they say we should stop is what the community needs. I want whoever wrote that to come down here and walk around with us.

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"We do things differently to PCSOs. We try to embed ourselves in the community. We don't look like police officers and that builds trust. We have got to keep confidence and to keep information coming in."

Simeon Sheldon, a former soldier who has been a warden for more than two years, said that running football leagues is essential for cutting down gang crime.

"It is really positive for young people," he explained. "I help run a league and it really helps with the postcode gangs in London because we bring kids from different areas together.

"We set up a scheme 18 months ago on the Clarence Way estate. We now have three or four guys trained up to start coaching the younger ones themselves."

Following the report, the council will be consulting on a complete overhaul of the warden service.

Currently there are three teams, in Camden Town, King's Cross and Bloomsbury. However, the council is considering revamping the service to allow wardens to cover areas where the crime statistics are worse, or where they are asked to respond to sudden crime waves.

Although wardens are not opposed to moving to other areas, they say an extra team is what's really needed in the battle against anti-social behaviour.

They also expressed doubts about "enviro-crime" fines being part of their responsibilities.

Mr Hayday added: "There is a feeling that if we start fining people we will lose all those community contacts we have built up."

The November report was attacked by many people in the community including Pride of Britain award winner Silla Carron who succeeded in beating crime on her Clarence Way estate.

The report said: "Street wardens cannot be expected to deal with the wide variety of tasks and services they currently do such as running football teams, escorting elderly people to the shops and organising youth diversionary activities without impact on their core role.

"The focus [in the future] will be on preventing and dealing with antisocial behaviour."

Councillor Ben Rawlings, whose department wrote the report and is leading the consultation, said: "We have just had the worst local government settlement from central government. If money grew on trees it would be lovely, but we are not in the position where we can afford a new team.

"We need to be looking at improving services as well as just adding more wardens. There needs to be a balance between patrols and football stuff. Some members of the community feel wardens are helping young people and the elderly instead of patrolling, and if they are doing that they are not accessible to the rest of the community.

"It is about finding a balance. Fixed penalty notices is something people will be able to comment on in the consultation."

A public meeting on the future on the service is being held tonight at the Friends House on Euston Road from 7.15pm to 9pm.

Other invitation-only meetings are being held throughout the month.