FEARS for the future of the award-winning Omagh Street Safe Scheme have increased after seven of its regular volunteers resigned en masse.
The resignations is the latest development in a long-running dispute between volunteers and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council over a new co-ordinator post.
The Street Safe Scheme – launched in 2013 after the deaths of two young people from ‘one punch’ attacks in Omagh town centre – was originally funded by the Department for Social Development’s Neighbourhood Renewal Programme.
When this ceased in March 2016, Fermanagh and Omagh Council continued to back the project by providing administration support and co-ordinating personnel, a role currently performed by an officer from the Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), who accompanies volunteers on patrol on Saturday nights.
However, with the council reluctant to fund a new £25,580 co-ordinator post and seeking to shift responsibility for running the project onto unwilling volunteers, the future of the scheme is in jeopardy.
The council was on the brink of closing the scheme at a recent meeting of its regeneration and community committee, but following a vote and impassioned pleas from a number of local councillors it decided to give negotiations with volunteers ‘one final chance.’
However, the Herald understands that the ‘final straw’ for the volunteers who have now stepped down came when they listened to an online audio recording of that meeting.
They are believed to be particularly concerned at claims that some of their correspondence sent to council officials was described as ‘angry and aggressive’ in its tone.
The resignations are likely to be discussed when matters comes before the monthly meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council tonight (Tuesday).
However, a final decision on whether or not to recommend the closure of the scheme is set to be made when the next meeting of the council’s regeneration and community committee takes place on April 10. Council officials and members of the Policing and Community Partnership are understood to be in talks with 20 individuals registered as volunteers to see if the scheme can be brought back from the brink of closure.
Posted: 5:13 pm April 3, 2018