On Friday I met Pulborough’s two neighbourhood wardens to find out more about their work. Since I first saw the wardens in action in Steyning and Ashington, two other villages in my constituency which have them, I have been a big supporter of the scheme.
Horsham District Council runs the warden scheme in partnership with parish councils. Based within the community the wardens work alongside partner agencies to improve the quality of life for everyone by undertaking a number of activities from enforcement to community development.
They work with all sections of the community to find solutions to problems whilst promoting community cohesion and resilience.
The wardens do have some enforcement powers relating to antisocial behaviour, and are accredited by Sussex Police, but they themselves are anxious to highlight that they are not a replacement for police officers.
They do, however, carry out high visibility patrols in their respective areas to deter crime and antisocial behaviour. Indeed, their whole approach is based in the belief that prevention is better than cure.
They deal with environmental issues that affect the local quality of life such as dog fouling. And I was immensely impressed to learn about the kind of community engagement which the wardens do, including their work with the elderly and vulnerable as well as young people.
And I am not the only one. The Chairman of Pulborough Parish Council said in his annual report that “the experiment to employ Neighbourhood Wardens seems to have had a profound effect on the village as a whole from within all age groups.
“Not only are residents seeing and reporting the benefit of their presence, but the wardens themselves have said how much they are enjoying their roles within the community.”
This is a view shared in the other villages, and local taxpayers have voted to continue funding the wardens on their parish precepts. I believe the scheme should be extended to other villages.
As times and the nature of crime has changed, and with pressure on resources, the pattern of local policing has altered, too. Our PCSOs now cover very large areas, although innovative new shared outposts such as the one in Petworth’s library which I helped to open last year can give them a local base.
The police still have a vital job to do and must maintain their presence, but wardens can add something else in every village. Their popularity speaks for itself. Let’s see more of them.