Convicted offenders are working across Westminster to help clean up the city while at the same time paying their debt back to society. The move follows a successful project at Hyde Park Corner where offenders gave the subway a deep-clean to prepare it for the thousands of visitors arriving by tube for the Royal Wedding, and just as importantly for all the residents and visitors who use the subways day-in, day-out. Currently those convicted of minor crimes are hard at work on four housing estates, helping out in the gardens of disabled residents, painting railings and performing general clean up tasks, as part of the close working relationship between the council the London Probation Service. Other plans already confirmed include removing prostitute cards and cleaning street furniture around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street. And those under consideration include cleaning and painting the Charing Cross underpass and painting handrails by Regent’s Park which have been heavily graffitied. Council Officers are also discussing the possibility of using the scheme to clean the TfL subways around Edgware Road after the idea was raised by local Councillor, Sheila D’Souza. Ideas for ways to use the Community Payback scheme, which is run in conjunction with London Probation Service are submitted by everyone from Westminster Wardens, police officers, officers working for CityWest Homes which manages Westminster Council’s housing stock, and elected local Councillors. Westminster Council’s cabinet member for city management, Cllr Ed Argar said: “This is a perfect example of a scheme that benefits everybody. The community benefits from an improved environment, it’s cost effective, and the offenders complete their punishment by helping the law-abiding section of the community they have let down. It also reflects the close working relationship between WCC, the Probation Service, and other partners like TfL.” The scheme also helps offenders back into work as they receive recommendations from those running the projects. One of the estate based projects is taking place in Holcroft Court, Fitzrovia, and residents have been getting involved by helping to oversee the work. One 53 year-old, who has lived on the estate for 21 years and has helped organise the scheme, said: “The Community Payback Scheme allows the offenders to pay their debt to society without having their whole life ruined by a prison sentence. “As a volunteer I am able to give offenders a reference to enable them to get a job, which the probation department is unable to do. Furthermore, the high visibility of the orange vest that they are obliged to wear, send out a strong signal to potential trouble makers that crime and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated here, and, is a deterrent for those who would be tempted. “There are also many benefits for the volunteer. You get the work done for free at your own specifications. Joining in with the work is very good exercise, and you get to know all your neighbours, many of whom will want to assist you. And, as Aristotle said, “cultivating the good life requires participation in public life, and exercising responsibility”.