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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 03/02/2004


General Reductions in the Levels of Maintenance

The current grounds maintenance contract covers a wide range of operations including horticultural operations, inspection and cleaning duties, sports pitch maintenance, cemetery maintenance and burials.

The majority of the horticultural maintenance operations contained within the existing specification are performance/quality based (e.g.: beds are to be maintained weed and litter free at all times); this puts the onus on the contractor to decide on the frequency of programmed work and also enables officers to inspect sites on a flexible basis and request remediation at any time.

The majority of the sports field maintenance operations are frequency based in order to correspond with pitch bookings and usage.

Playground inspection is carried out on a frequency basis determined by the Client Department, in order to assure a consistent and legally acceptable approach in line with the recommendations of the council’s insurers and taking into consideration British Standards.

If there is a requirement to reduce expenditure on the Grounds Maintenance Service, the following options could be considered. However, many of these options are in direct opposition to the findings of the Parks and Open Spaces Fundamental Service Review which are set out in Annexe 1 to this report:

i) Change the performance specifications to reduce standards. This would result in a reduction in the programmed frequency of operations by the contractor (e.g.: changing the amenity grass cutting maintenance regime from 30-150 mm (1 to 6 inches) height to say 50 – 230 mm (2 to 9 inches) – would equate to a change from a three-weekly cut to a four weekly cut in an average season. Other reductions could include the maintenance of shrub and rose beds and moss and weed killing on footpaths. ii) Hedges are currently maintained as per their species requirements – the majority of hedges are cut once per year, so it would not be possible to realistically reduce the frequency of cutting. However there are a number of species e.g.: privet, which requires two cuts a year. It would therefore be possible to reduce this to an annual cut. However, even with the existing standard the service receives a number of complaints each year relating to overgrown hedges. iii) Reduce the quantity of a particular feature type (e.g. shrub and rose beds, seasonal bedding or hedging) and replacing features with less costly options in terms of maintenance requirements e.g. grass, paving or tarmac. Currently the contract plants and maintains about 500 m of seasonal bedding in premier parks, outside civic offices, and in sheltered housing schemes. However, it is considered that the cost savings associated with this option in parks would not be significant and would detract from the public’s enjoyment of the parks facilities.

iv) Playgrounds are currently inspected every other working day across all sites. Whilst this level of inspection frequency is preferred, it is not a statutory requirement for the council to carry out this level of inspection. Therefore it would be acceptable in order to reduce costs associated with this part of the service to prioritise sites by complexity and reducing simple sites to weekly, fortnightly or monthly inspections as appropriate. Additional minor savings could be achieved by carrying out the painting programme on a three to four year rolling cycle rather than annually as is currently carried out.

v) Closed Churchyards offer some scope for reduced grass-cutting frequency and could be developed as a wildlife resource. However, if this course of action is to be pursued, it will be necessary to employ conservation management methods to control unwanted growth such as brambles.

vi) Currently the Council pays approximately 10,500 per year to maintain 8 grass tennis courts which are open to the general public and do not generate significant revenue as they are not staffed. To assist in reducing this on-going revenue cost the Council could, through the capital programme, seek to redevelop these courts into all weather hard courts, which would reduce the on-going annual maintenance costs and provide greater accessibility to users.