ONE of Worcester's leading politicians has defended the role of unpaid volunteers - saying it is "poppycock" to deride them.

Tory Councillor Marc Bayliss has refuted concern over the growing army of people doing traditional council work for free, insisting that society as a whole benefits from their efforts.

As your Worcester News revealed back in June, around 4,300 people now help Worcestershire County Council out by undertaking tasks like library work, cutting hedges, maintaining footpaths and driving community transport buses.

In response to unprecedented cuts in funding the council has launched a marketing tool called 'Act Local' which aims to encourage more people to join the growing trend.

It was debated during a meeting of the resources scrutiny panel yesterday, during which Cllr Bayliss defended the tactic.

In recent months County Hall's opposition Labour group, led by Councillor Peter McDonald, has criticised the growth of volunteers.

Cllr Bayliss said: "For some people, there's been some worry and concern around volunteering.

"I think it's complete poppycock, particularly at this time of retrenchment (in council spending) I think it helps build societies - it encourages and helps people do more than they normally would."

He asked Neil Anderson, the council's head of cultural and community services, if he had a view on the concerns.

Mr Anderson said he constantly "monitoring" public attitude to volunteers and was determined to make it work.

"Is it a one size fits all approach? Probably not, there are some paid staff roles you can't replace," he said.

"As an example, think of the archivists' role, it's a highly professional one - the volunteers (at The Hive) can help people search their family history on a computer but they can't verify documents and do the stuff the archivists do."

The council is trying to promote the Act Local scheme more with the launch of a new website.

The website is being updated constantly with information on where people volunteer, success stories around Worcestershire, the role parish councils have to play and how ordinary people can get involved.

To see it visit