Payback probation charges criticised

PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 August 2012

Teams of convicted offenders carry out work in the community payback scheme

Teams of convicted offenders carry out work in the community payback scheme

Archant

PARISH and town councils in North Somerset must now pay daily fees of £100 for teams of offenders to carry out work in their area.

The community payback team - people ordered to carry out unpaid work as part of court punishments - is used by Avon and Somerset Probation Trust to do clean-up work across the district.

But now parish councils wanting to get the team to work in their town or village must pay a fee of £100 per session, and the move has been attacked as putting rural communities at ‘a disadvantage’.

The payback scheme run by the trust sees teams of offenders carry out work that can include cleaning, maintenance and repairs in the South West.

Previously there was no set charge imposed on parish authorities for the team to carry out work in their area, but the trust has now decided to impose set charges, saying the fees are ‘very good value’.

The costs have been introduced to cover the costs incurred by the team’s visits, such as the use of a minibus to transport them across the district.

North Somerset Council representative Tim Marter, whose ward covers the villages of Winscombe, Sandford and Banwell, which have previously had work done by the team, has attacked the move.

He said: “The unpaid work is valuable and beneficial for the communities where the teams do work.

“Some of the parish councils have precepts of £3,000 a year – they cannot afford to pay £100 for a day’s work.

“I strongly believe that the rural community is going to be disadvantaged by this change.

“Only the rich town councils can afford this service now and that’s not right.”

Jeremy Britton, manager of the Avon and Somerset community payback team, said: “We think it’s very good value, it is very useful work that the teams carry out.

“We’ve got to the stage where we feel comfortable that for £100 you can get 50 to 70 hours’ work when you add up the amount of work given by the team.”

Representatives of the community payback team have agreed to meet with Cllr Marter and council officers to attempt to reach a compromise.

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