Offenders on the right path with the highways Community Payback scheme

Offenders taking part in a Community Payback scheme have completed 1,500 hours of work on low-priority highway maintenance activities in Somerset.

Somerset County Council has been working in partnership with the Probation Service to trial using offenders to help tidy up the streets.

The scheme identifies appropriate highway maintenance jobs – like removing weeds and vegetation from footpaths – in suitable, safe locations which can be completed by the offenders, but which are otherwise considered a low priority. This saves taxpayers money and frees up council resources to complete higher priority work to ensure the highway network is safe.

One big job that was recently completed in the Sedgemoor district area was the clearing of the footway link alongside the A38. Over 19 shifts, participants collectively completed approximately 800 hours of work; clearing the overhanging foliage and ploughing the footway (removing dirt and weeds), from Junction 22 to the county border at Bleadon.

Another location to benefit is alongside the A38 between Taunton and Wellington.

Councillor John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “This Community Payback Scheme started as a trial and has proven a real success story. By working closely with the Probation Service we’ve been able to help them find suitable jobs for offenders which directly benefit local communities. It also frees up our resources to tackle more complex and higher priority work tasks. We hope to see this continue in the future.”

The idea for the scheme was first put forward by County Councillor Bob Filmer. He said: “It’s been fantastic to see the Community Payback scheme develop and the results have been very well received in the community. I look forward to seeing further areas benefit from the scheme in future.”

Somerset County Council looks after more than 4,170 miles of road and in 2018/19 invested £24.7m to keep the county moving, including filling 18,519 potholes and delivering 385 highway maintenance schemes ranging from drainage works to carriageway and footway resurfacing.

You can stay up to date with our highways team by following @TravelSomerset on Twitter.