Argyll and Bute Council budget: Community warden service could be cut in half

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Argyll and Bute Council’s community warden service could be set to lose half its staff under new cost-cutting proposals.

The service is one of many up for review when the policy and resources committee meets to discuss the 2019/20 budget tomorrow (Thursday).

It is estimated that the measure, which would see the removal of five full-time equivalent posts, would save the council £385,000 over the next three financial years – £105,000 in 2019/20 and a further £140,000 in each of the following two.

But a report states that implementing the ‘savings option’ would mean each of the remaining wardens, whose duties include litter enforcement and monitoring of fly-tipping and dog fouling, would cover more than 650 square miles on average – up from the current figure of almost 300.

The document, part of a lengthy pack of reports compiled by head of strategic finance Kirsty Flanagan, states: “This service is delivered across four geographical areas by nine staff using eight vehicles.

“As part of the 2017/18 budget proposal, four additional wardens were put in place on a temporary 12 month basis, these temporary roles have now all ended.

“The warden service is involved in delivering a wide range of tasks which have a high public expectation in local service delivery.

“The Argyll and Bute Council area covers 2,667 square miles. With the nine permanent wardens this equates to one warden covering 296.3 square miles.

“With the reductions proposed in this template, this would increase the area to 667 square miles per warden on average.

“The budget for the warden service consists of staff costs and vehicles. Removing £140,000 or 50 per cent of the budget will result in removing half of the team.”

Other services performed by the community wardens include graffiti investigations and removal, fly-posting investigations, community clean-ups and the enforcement of fixed penalty notices.

They also liaise with housing associations and other agencies such as Police Scotland, SEPA and the SSPCA.

Due to legal requirements, the council is unable to reduce or end the duties of dog control, stray dogs, abandoned vehicles or the local environmental and audit management system.

The report adds: “The remainder of the warden duties would be significantly reduced. There would be a risk to income from commercial waste contracts.

“There would be a risk of increased cost, reduced income and detrimental effect to the environment through less compliance with recycling.

“Reduced level of service could result in reputational damage and an increase in the number of complaints to the council.”

If the budget cuts are approved by the policy and resources committee, they will then go before the full council on Thursday, February 21.