Councillor Derek Rowley: Let me set the record straight!

Dear editor, Your article “Wardens row rumbles on after full council meeting branded ‘shambles’”, dated 12 January 2012, was misleading to your readers and contained inaccuracies. I want to set the record straight.

Firstly, the opening line of the article says the council voted to axe our park and street wardens. This is not correct. The vote at last week’s full council meeting was actually on whether to take any action on a petition. The council voted not to take the action the petition sought.

The decision that your article confuses this with is the decision taken by me as cabinet member on December 9 to approve the proposed new Boroughwide Patrolling Services as a basis for consultation with employees and trade unions. The proposal includes the merger of two separate street and warden services into a single patrolling service. This would offer a seven-day-a-week service compared to the current six-day-a-week service.

The proposal does involve a reduction in current staffing levels but we are planning to remove managerial and administrative posts while preserving as many wardens out and about in the borough as possible. There are 31 park and street wardens in the current structure (including four vacant posts) and our proposals mean there would be 16 from April this year. Wherever possible, we are trying to avoid compulsory redundancies while at the same time protecting frontline services.

Secondly, I need to make it absolutely clear that the decision I made on December 9 was legal and in line with the council’s constitution.

Finally, your report made no reference to the lengthy explanations Councillor Eling and I gave at full council on how we have worked hard to retain the wardens.

Despite the considerable budget pressures we are facing, following swingeing cuts by central Government, we have managed to keep a wardens service. Wardens are not a statutory service for the council to provide, and a number of local authorities are cutting them altogether.

But we know Sandwell people value the part wardens play in keeping the area safe and clean and we all look forward to them continuing to provide this important, very visible service out in the community.

Yours faithfully, Councillor Derek Rowley Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services Sandwell Council

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