By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Mansfield’s mayor has assured councillors the district has enough neighbourhood wardens to keep residents safe amid concerns of falling staff numbers.
It comes as the Labour mayor was quizzed by an opposition leader after the authority wiped five existing vacancies from the team last year.
Executive Mayor Andy Abrahams (Lab) says the number of wardens employed by the authority has “fluctuated” in recent years due to vacancies, with six staff currently on the council’s books and one vacancy due to be filled this year.
The department also has a neighbourhood warden team leader, taking the total number of staff within the team to eight once the current vacancy is occupied.
In 2015 and 2016 this number was 12, reducing to seven in 2017 before rising to 10 in 2018, reducing down to seven again in 2019 and down to five in 2020 and 2021.
The figures led to concerns from Councillor Mick Barton, leader of the opposition Mansfield Independents group, who questioned whether the number of wardens is enough to keep communities safe.
It follows the delegated decision taken by the authority’s head of paid services to wipe five vacancies in the department from the council’s books at the end of 2021.
This decision followed a review of the community safety services by the authority’s overview and scrutiny panel, Mr Abrahams said.
Speaking in the full council meeting on Tuesday (January 25), Cllr Barton said: “You’ve never been a councillor, Mr Mayor, and there are 36 councillors who have all used our wardens very well over the years.
“I think it’s very disappointing to cut it down to seven. Do you honestly think seven wardens can serve 36 wards in our district?”
In response, Mr Abrahams said he does believe these wardens are enough to support the district and says the authority’s public safety offering is “in a far better state” than previous years.
He compared the numbers with other areas and suggested Mansfield has a strong number of wardens per proportion of the population.
And he said investment has been made into other teams, including anti-social behaviour officers, with departments working together to tackle crime and disorder across the district.
The mayor said: “When this recruitment is completed and the team is at full capacity, there will be one neighbourhood warden for every 13,625 people.
“This is greater than 13 out of the 14 local authorities included in a recent benchmarking exercise, with only Chesterfield having a marginally-higher ratio of one for every 13,012.
“The decision was taken to delete the vacancies of neighbourhood warden services, but another decision was taken to increase the number of anti-social behaviour case officers on full-time equivalent.
“This will increase the capacity of the anti-social behaviour team and was taken in response to demand and an increase in more complex ASB cases being dealt with by the service.
“We have a much stronger public safety offer now. It’s hard to take it all in isolation because we work in teamwork with the police, and public safety is in a far better state now than it was in 2019.”
He added local policing levels have increased in this period, with some wardens leaving to join the policing team.
The district’s wardens work from Monday to Saturday between 8am and 10pm, covering all areas of Mansfield, Mansfield Woodhouse and Warsop.
The authority’s website states they deal with littering, fly-tipping, dog fouling, graffiti, “problem vehicles” and anti-social behaviour, acting as a “contact point” for schools, residents and businesses.