Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document
Meeting of the Executive held on 03/02/2004
ANNEXE 6 - LEISURE SERVICES BEST VALUE AND FUNDAMENTAL SERVICE REVIEW - SPORT AND RECREATION - PARKS AND OPEN SPACES
Leisure Services Best Value and Fundamental Service Review
Sport and Recreation – Parks and Open Spaces
Observations of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee –
20th January 2004
The Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered this report at its meeting on 20th January 2004 and officers responded to questions from the committee. The following observations are forwarded to the Executive:-
Annexe 1 - Grounds Maintenance Operations
Grass Cutting in Housing Amenity Areas
Although residents have requested that the grass be cut more frequently, it was pointed out by a member of the Committee that a lot of grass would not withstand being cut more regularly, and that if this was actioned it could result in the grass dying out entirely. Therefore the Committee wished to draw to the attention of the Executive the importance of a grass cutting frequency appropriate to the type of grass and its use. The Committee also mentioned a possible need for planting a different type of grass and the cost implications involved.
The Committee was also concerned at the number of different contractors used to cut different areas of grass across the Borough, including Arkeco, Surrey County Council and social landlord contractors and the Committee urges the Executive to look at ways of co-ordinating the range of grass cutting contractors working in the Borough.
Litter and Dog Mess Control in Parks and Open Spaces
The Committee was pleased to see that the responsibility for litter collection in parks was to be transferred to the Grounds Maintenance contract at re-tendering, but was concerned about the cost implications.
The Committee agreed that overgrown shrubs and hedges were a problem in the Borough and recognised that elderly residents were worried by their presence. Therefore the Committee agreed with the officer suggestion to establish dedicated park staff who would perform basic maintenance of this sort.
Sports Pitch Provision and Usage
The Committee was in favour of a rolling programme of scheduled sports pitch improvements, and felt that this would be beneficial for those pitches in the Borough owned by Waverley.
The Committee was very concerned at the provision of playground and youth facilities across the Borough and discussed the topic comprehensively. The Committee noted that provision for teenagers was considered under ‘playground’ and felt that such provision should be considered separately. However, the Committee was very concerned at the lack of adequate provision for teenagers and Farncombe was cited as an area in particular need. This problem had in turn led to elder children and teenagers frequenting play facilities intended for much younger children, which led to a problem of broken alcohol bottles and rubbish in play areas. The Committee urged the Executive to investigate providing for older children simple facilities, possibly by utilising existing pavilions and agreed with officers that the Environment and Leisure and Planning departments should work together to secure play provision in Section 106 agreements. The Committee concurred that the proposals to establish dedicated park staff would help to ensure that the play areas for young children remained safe at all times.
Annexe 2 – Action Plan
The Committee generally supported the proposed action plan, but suggested that the proposed information boards should include a range of telephone contact numbers for Waverley.
Passport for Leisure Scheme
The Committee agreed that the profile of this scheme needed to be raised, and observed that it is difficult for teenagers to book leisure facilities without the help of an adult as often credit/debit card payment is required at the time of booking.
Observations on Cost Saving Options for Grounds Maintenance Specification
The Committee felt that it was difficult to suggest ways to improve the service (Annexes 1-4) and simultaneously find ways to save money (Annexe 5) in the body of a single report; and wished to point out to the Executive that Annexe 5 was at variance to the rest of the report, and not in the spirit of Best Value reviews which should focus on continuous service improvement.
As noted above the Committee did not feel that it would be safe to cut hedges less frequently and felt that reduced frequency could increase people’s fear of crime.
The Committee agreed that it was not necessary to inspect every playground every other day, but rather the inspections should be prioritised on a risk basis and key sites should be inspected daily, whereas quieter sites could be inspected every 1-2 weeks. The Committee also felt that the painting of playground equipment should take place on an ad hoc basis rather than timetabled specifically as once every three or four years. A system of prioritisation could be developed in co-operation with the inspection timetable.
Some members of the Committee felt that this was not the correct course of action as many residents complained about overgrown churchyards, whereas other members felt that closed churchyards should be made as easy to maintain as possible, with curb stones removed for ease of mowing. In some areas the grass was not cut until the wildflowers have seeded, a notice to this effect is displayed and relatives visiting graves accepted the reasons for this.
The Committee was in favour of converting the grass courts to all weather hard courts, in principle, however, it considered the initial outlay of £240,000 for all Waverley courts a high capital cost in order to save £10,500 per annum in maintenance charges. Therefore the Committee did not consider this work should be carried out at this time.
The Committee reinforced the comment made above on the best value review and stressed the need for a programme of cutting which was appropriate to the use of the area.