SOUTHEND Council has hit back at critics who have accused a community safety team of slacking off by hiding down a side street.

Photos shared on social media, and sent to the Echo, showed three of the six community safety officers, who were hired in December at the cost of £250,000 to try and stem rise in crime, in an alleyway.

In the photos, the team can be seen smoking and using their mobile phones for periods critics claimed exceeded 30 minutes at a time.

One man, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “The council community team is non-existent on the High Street. I have walked several times down the High Street and never seen them.

“Yesterday a member of the community shared CCTV images of them loitering in a side street.

“He claims this happens often – several times a day – and said it was for upwards of 30 mins. They appear to be smoking, on their phones, sitting down in a fire escape entrance and climbing on the roof.

“If they are on a break, why three of them at the same time, in uniform and why not in their office away from the cold? This is a perceived waste of £250,000 of taxpayers’ money.”

Southend Council has slammed the criticism as “disappointing” and claimed the team were investigating antisocial behaviour while also taking a break.

Basildon Standard:

Mark Flewitt, councillor for public protection, said: “This area can at times be a target for antisocial behaviour and officers often patrol there for that reason. On the day in question, officers were responding to reports of children running over rooftops and fire escapes. After scouring the area, including the rooftops, the team took the decision to wait there for a short period to see if they returned.

“We must remember that community safety officers are also human beings who are on patrol most of the day and are entitled to a well-earned break. I personally find it very disappointing that anyone would try to publicly shame a hard-working officer in this way.”