Criminals have carried out more than £3.5m worth of free labour for communities across North Yorkshire in recent years, a new report has revealed.
The annual report for the York and North Yorkshire Probation Trust has revealed more than 600,000 hours of community payback work has been undertaken by convicted offenders across the county in the past five years, with 125,000 hours in the past year alone, equating to around £790,000 in unpaid labour.
The scheme is considered vital in North Yorkshire due to its elderly population.
Now, as cash-strapped local authorities across the county continue to trim their budgets, Pete Brown, chief executive of the probation trust is calling on communities to come forward with their own projects where the criminals can work in the future and help fill the void.
“We want to focus our work on what the local communities would like,” he said.
“We have a very disparate community in North Yorkshire and sometimes it is difficult to get things done.
“We can offer people a large amount of work that is closely supervised.
“There is an increasing number of suggestions coming in to us and a significant proportion of what is being suggested comes from community groups.”
Mr Brown said there is a number of different criteria that any application by a community group needs to meet.
These include it being of proven benefit to the area, does not take work away from local businesses, has to be challenging and demanding and allow offenders to wear hi-visibility vests.
Schemes that have taken place include helping to create workshops and potting sheds at Ripon Walled Garden, filling sandbags in Northallerton to combat flooding and renovating the village church at Cundall, near Thirsk.
The North Yorkshire and York Probation Trust is one of 35 in England and Wales and is responsible for the delivery of reports about offenders to the courts as well as the supervision and rehabilitation of offenders in the community.
Last year it was placed as one of the top three highest achieving trusts in the country for protecting the public and reducing re-offending.
Any community group wanting to submit an application to the probation trust should visit its website at www.ynyprobation.co.uk