It was less a war of words but more a number of icy stares as Thurrock Tories debated the presence of “uniformed” criminals in the borough.
Thurrock Council’s Cabinet agreed on Wednesday (17 June) evening to a one-year pilot Community Payback scheme in the borough with offenders wearing high-visibility jackets.
Working with the Probation Service, the council’s Public Protection department will provide a link for requests for work to be done.
Concerns were raised regarding the criminals working in schools.
Council Leader Garry Hague stated that the final decision as enshrined in law was with the Headteachers.
Right wing Tories Cllrs Neil Rockcliffe and Joy Redsell demanded that something should be written into the scheme that they would not be allowed anywhere near schools.
Portfolio Holder for Education, Sue MacPherson, clearly irritated by her colleagues, defended the autonomy of the Headteachers in Thurrock while Cllr Hague said their concerns were minuted.
Cllr Ben Maney, the council’s Cabinet member for Public Protection, said after the meeting: “The idea is for the community to get involved and the council will be the go-between, passing on possible areas of work to the Probation Service.”
The areas of work involved are wide ranging. It could be anything from ground clearance and landscaping, to fencing, general cleaning or the installation of disabled accesses; from general gardening projects to recycling projects.
Offenders who are in the scheme are supervised at all times and each offender is carefully assessed before they are assigned to a project. Offenders taking part will wear the high-visibility jackets that identify them as Community Payback participants.
Cllr Maney added: “This will make it more obvious to residents that these sentences are being carried out. The offenders will be making reparations to society and the community can see it happening.
“There is also the added benefit that the offenders will receive skills training through their unpaid work, increasing the chances of their rehabilitation.”