MP joins battle to save Sunderland warden

MP Sharon Hodgson (front left) and Mary Reid (seated fron right) President of Castletown Comunty Assoc. with a petition asking the council to keep the community warden. Also pictured are local councillors and local residents.
MP Sharon Hodgson (front left) and Mary Reid (seated fron right) President of Castletown Comunty Assoc. with a petition asking the council to keep the community warden. Also pictured are local councillors and local residents.
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A COMMUNITY warden credited with combating crime and antisocial behaviour in a Wearside village faces losing his job.

Campaigners are calling on the council and its partners to come up with the cash to keep on Castletown neighbourhood warden Breandan King.

Protesters have handed over a 400-signature petition and asked Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson to help their plight.

Community campaigner Jimmy Burnicle said: “High youth unemployment, cuts in police resources and other services will certainly hurt our community.

“It would be a tragic loss to our community if we lose our warden and all the volunteers that work with him.”

The community warden project was one of the measures to come out of the Castletown Neighbourhood Action Group (CNAG), set up in 2006 after the Echo highlighted problems with crime and antisocial behaviour in the former mining community.

Funding was initially allocated for two wardens in 2007.

Marc Dixon and Kelvin Evans were originally appointed, with Mr King hired to replace Mr Evans when he left in 2008. Mr Dixon left the project in 2010.

Campaigners say Mr King commanded a great deal of respect in the community and had about 15 volunteers working with him.

He organises football, karate and kick-boxing and other sessions, as well as bike rides and sports tournaments.

Mr Burnicle said the warden also works closely with police, other organisations and older people in the community.

He said Mr King had been successful at pulling in funding for many projects and activities in the community, and worked with schools on environmental projects, litter picks and other schemes.

Mrs Hodgson met campaigners at Castletown Community Centre to discuss their concerns and spoke in support of the warden scheme.

She said: “The community warden has done a great job of improving the quality of life for Castletown residents, making the streets safer by bringing young and old together with agencies like the council, Gentoo and the police to come up with positive solutions to the problems the area faced just a few short years ago.

“The strength of support from residents speaks volumes. Those agencies, who clearly benefit from a reduction in crime and other problems in the area, now need to come together and find the funding to allow Breandan and his team of volunteers to carry on their important work.”

COUNCIl chiefs say they are looking for funding to keep the warden project going.

John Kelly, the senior councillor responsible for safer city and culture in Sunderland, said: “Castletown’s neighbourhood warden has been working in the community, with its residents and the city council since 2008.

“He is employed by the Sunderland North Community Business Centre (SNCBC) helping tackle vandalism and theft, arson and antisocial behaviour, plus useful neighbourhood work such as youth diversionary activities.

“A mix of grants has also helped fund this work in the past including neighbourhood renewal funding and funding from a social landlord.

“Work is currently funded through the city council’s strategic initiatives budget and further funding opportunities are being explored.”

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