Cheltenham Borough Council
Cheltenham Borough Council

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Agenda item

Cheltenham Guardians



Terry Howard, the Operations Director at Cheltenham Guardians CERT, introduced himself to the committee. 


Cheltenham Guardians was born in November 2014 out of a strong desire to engage with Cheltenham’s homeless. It was an idea that “we the community”, empowered by civic responsibility could contribute to positive and compassionate action in our town for our most vulnerable. The team discovered that most of the people on the streets were actually not homeless and for  many their primary reason for being out at night was to beg, sometimes with intimidation and aggression, and nearly always to feed a drug habit. It was felt that the Guardians were not equipped to deal with these individuals, not in the way that was hoped.  So the team’s direction changed (by circumstance) to being  a crucial component within the vanguard of safeguarding in Cheltenham’s night time economy on a Saturday night. A typical shift would see  a response team utilising an AED equipped marked vehicle. He highlighted that In the last 18 months Cheltenham Guardians had saved the emergency services in Gloucestershire over £100,000, as well as providing £50,000 worth of services to the borough free of any charge.

The team  comprised 12 operational volunteer Guardians, each volunteer being DBS checked and undertakes comprehensive and specific night time economy training.

He explained that by the end of October Cheltenham Guardians would be administered by a community interest company, a CIC. The CIC would  be a vehicle that would fund the Guardian operation as well as deliver low cost event medic cover to community groups within a 20 mile radius of Cheltenham. Any small profits made during these events would be channelled back into Cheltenham Guardians. Over the next 24 months the Guardians would like to see a lowland rescue element added to its operation and be in a position to support the NHS more.

Members raised the following points/questions :

·         Training was provided by WGM training.

·         The Guardians never experience violence towards them but do encounter violence on the streets on a regular basis. They use body video to protect themselves against false allegations. There is both audio and video in the vehicle too.

·         The Guardians do transport young females home where there is a need

·         A Member queried the fact that the vehicle resembled a police car and could be misconstrued as the police. Terry was aware of the concerns, particularly in the early days but stated that now it was widely recognised as the Cheltenham Guardians vehicle and had its own place in the night time economy. Its visibility was important.

·         Level of buy in from businesses/bars-overall the Guardians had a good relationship with the bars and clubs in the town but concern was expressed at the level of duty of care by some bars/clubs to customers in some instances.

·         Funding and succession-the Guardians was predominantly self funded. The costs amounted to approximately £500 per month. In terms of succession the Guardians were looking at options to make themselves more buoyant and to attract a consistent level of funding. Moving towards the CIC model should alleviate the costs involved and solidify the Guardian’s desire to become a transparent community organisation.

·         Recruitment-the Guardians were a solid team and there was a robust entry procedure . A conscious effort was made to get to know applicants beforehand and in some cases they were turned down. They did not need to advertise and there was currently a waiting list of 22.

A Member asked Terry whether he considered there to be any practical points, mainly in the field of licensing or other areas of protection, which were lacking and how CBC could assist. He would consider this further and report back to democratic services.

The Chair thanked Terry for his input and thanked the Guardians for their valuable service to the town. He looked forward to hearing how CBC could be of support to them and wished to be kept informed of developments. Terry thanked Members for the opportunity to address them and invited them individually to accompany the Guardians one Saturday night in the town.