Shetland Islands Council is looking to halve its squad of neighbourhood support workers to save £40,000 a year. No jobs would be lost because two of the four part-time posts have been empty since February anyway.
The service has been under review since February when councillors refused to back a proposal to scrap it despite the pressure they were under to find savings of £15.4 million this year.
The recommended proposal for Wednesday’s meeting of the environment and transport committee is to keep two posts going.
The community warden scheme was started by the Scottish government in 2003 to deter crime and tackle anti-social behaviour such as dog-fouling, littering, under-age drinking and neighbourhood disputes. The wardens also gather “community intelligence” and work as go-betweens for the public and the police as well as the council.
The review of the service showed that it was valued by the authorities and the community. People feel safer and support workers have been able to intervene in problems which might otherwise have led to people ending up on the homeless list and costing more money to the public purse.
When consulted, the police wanted all four jobs kept. They said any further reduction in the intelligence they receive from workers could lead to an increase in crime and poorer clear-up rates.
Other agencies also preferred the service to be kept at full strength, except for the education service which said it should be scrapped due to the need for savings.
Environmental services executive manager Maggie Sandison has concluded that it is important to keep a presence going for the meantime, at least until it becomes clear whether or not policing in Shetland is to be cut under the single Scottish force.
With two of the posts having been empty for nearly 10 months the infrastructure services department is on course to save £40,000 of the £80,000 that would have resulted from scrapping the warden service. For this year the remaining £40,000 requirement has been found from an under-spend in the budget for adapting disabled people’s houses.
The wardens have also lost the use of their own van since April, saving £2,000. They now share other council vans.