ELLESMERE Port has benefited from a record year of compulsory unpaid work carried out by offenders across the county.

Community Payback teams supervised by the Cheshire Probation Area provided 100,000 hours of labour, worth nearly £575,000, during 2008.

The offenders taking part have all been sentenced by the courts to do the work to pay back for their crimes.

Projects included cleaning graffiti, tidying up criminal damage, environmental clean-ups, painting and decorating community buildings and clearing church yards.

The scheme ensures that offenders work to make communities better places to live with the public having a say in what they do, and they often carry out work that would not otherwise be done.

Justice Minister David Hanson visited Cheshire Probation HQ in Chester to congratulate staff.

He said: “Community punishments are hard work, restrict liberty, but crucially encourage rehabilitation and reduce re-offending. It is physical work for the offenders but also has tremendous benefits for the community.

“The scheme shows that when people commit offences they have to repair and put right what they have done wrong in the first place whilst giving something back to the community.

“This is a constructive form of punishment in that, in addition to doing something beneficial to the community, offenders can learn respect.”

Cheshire Probation Area chief officer Steve Collett said: “Overall we have a great record in Cheshire in making it work – a phenomenal number of hours that have made real differences to local communities.”