Community safety wardens should not be ‘bin police’, say Caerphilly unions

UNISON branch secretary Lianne Dallimore

Community safety wardens in Caerphilly are to be diverted from tackling anti-social behaviour to policing what goes into residents’ recycling bins.

The County Borough Council will order wardens to make house to house checks as soon as next week and unions representing staff have said the plans are flawed and may back-fire.

UNISON and GMB have presented councillors with a comprehensive rebuttal of the proposals, which they say were never discussed with safety wardens. The trade unions want the council to think again. In particular, they highlight:

  • There has been no publicity campaign advising residents of what is expected of them on recycling or how it will be policed. Elderly and vulnerable residents may be scared by the sudden appearance of a uniformed warden on their doorstep
  • Surveys show many residents are worried about crime and anti-social behaviour. Making communities safer should be the sole focus of community safety wardens
  • The council already employs better paid staff within the Waste department who already work within the community to help improve recycling
  • Wardens won’t be trained on their new role and will instead attend an induction and be issued a script to use.

UNISON Caerphilly branch secretary, Lianne Dallimore, said,

“We are proud Wales is a leader in recycling and we want our council to encourage local people to do more too. However, these proposals are wrong on just about every count.

“You can’t police recycling if residents don’t know the rules to follow. Without this information, it’s easy to imagine the fear it may cause or resistance it may generate from households.

“We’ve shown councillors evidence of the extent local people are worried about drug dealing and other anti-social behaviour in the borough. Community Safety Wardens are already working hard to make our communities safer and it doesn’t make sense to take them away from this essential work.

“They are already busy people and now the council will make their workload impossible, forcing them to visit up to 80 homes a week.

GMB branch secretary, Neil Funnell, said,

“The GMB union are disappointed to hear of the decision which has been made by the chief executive of Caerphilly council, to use the community safety wardens to police the contaminated recycling bin issue throughout the communities of the council.

“This decision has been made after the joint trades unions, have made repeated representation to the chief executive and other officers of the council, raising the concerns of the unions and our members who work in the community safety wardens’ service.

“Unfortunately, the concerns and observations that have been made, sadly are being ignored. The unions have advised of our concerns of the removal of the wardens from their vitally important role of addressing antisocial behaviour in the community when there is clear evidence that it has increased, it is vitally important that the community safety wardens are left to deal with these matters on the streets and our public open spaces, which will impact on the residents of Caerphilly council if the decision to use these uniformed officers to knock doors is not reversed.”

UNISON and GMB told councillors they appreciate recycling is a key priority for the authority, but it should not be at the cost of the safety and well-being of the workforce and the communities they serve.

They want to work with the authority to produce a sensible recycling plan that has the full engagement of residents.

Media contact

Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales, 07816 53 83 97