Town’s Warden Scheme funds running out

Members of the Mid & East Antrim at their first meeting earlier this year.
Members of the Mid & East Antrim at their first meeting earlier this year.

A project aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour and fear of crime in Ballymena will soon not have enough cash to carry on, it has emerged.

Funding for the Town Centre Warden Scheme, which comes from the currently cash-strapped Policing & Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), is set to run out at the end of October, councillors have been told.

Updating Council’s Community Planning Committee, Officer Karen Hargan said the borough’s PCSP budget had, by the end of September, been “largely spent” resulting in 12 projects borough-wide ceasing to be funded by the end of last month, including the Ballymena Secured Scheme, which provides installation of low level security at homes of victims of crime/vulnerable.

While the Action Plans of the three predecessor PCSP’s of Larne, Carrick and Ballymena had a combined budget of over £476k in 2014-15, their kitty now stands following finance cuts, at £170k.

Some projects, while no longer in receipt of PCSP funding will continue to operate for a limited period using funding from other sources including the Ballymena Town Centre Warden Project which, it was reported will have to finish at the end of October if further funding is not made available.

A report to the Committee stated its loss could have “a seriously negative impact” on the current scheme to raise the profile of Ballymena Town Centre.

The project aims to reduce the fear of crime and incidence of anti-social behaviour in the town centre by 10% through provision of a Community Safety Warden at peak times.

A review of figures provided by the project for 2014-15 reveal assistance was given to 1186 members of the public, 2633 contact calls were made to retailers, 102 anti-social behaviour incidents were monitored/reported and 336 incidents of retail theft were reported/monitored.

Qualitiative impacts of delivery since its establishment in 2012 show there has been an increase in the number of people (four per cent) indicating they believe there are relatively low levels of crime during the daytime in the town centre. The number of respondents indicating relatively low levels of crime during the evening increased by nine per cent in the same period.

The committee went on to approve the officer recommendation on the proposal of Councillor Lynn McClurg seconded by Councillor William McNeilly to implement a tender process for the Ballymena Town Centre Warden. for the Community Safety Warden, Criminal Justice Support Worker, f-Tier Security Scheme and Clean Neighbourhood Programme to allow them to be delivered should funding become available. They also authorised Council’s Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy, to address any urgent graffiti issues across the borough when required.

Councillors heard all current projects have been informed of the funding situation and that PCSP officers were continuing to seek alternative funding sources for the delivery of the local PCSP Action Plan.