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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 20/01/2004
LEISURE SERVICES BEST VALUE FUNDAMENTAL SERVICES REVIEW –
SPORT & RECREATION, PARKS & OPEN SPACES



Summary & Purpose
This report summarises the key findings from the 2002/3 Leisure Services Reviews which were completed in the summer of 2003 of:
Sport & Recreation
Parks & Open Spaces

The findings of the reviews and the proposed Improvement Plans are attached in Annexes 1 to 4 of the report. The purpose of this report is to provide members with an opportunity to comment and debate the findings of the review.

In light of the pending need to re-tender the Grounds Maintenance Contract by November 2005, additional cost saving options relating to the specification are also set out in the report for Members to consider.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
N/A
N/A
N/A
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive


Improvements to the level of services provided in relation to Parks & Open Spaces will have a positive impact on the local environment. The development of Sport & Recreation facilities and services will support safe, healthy and active communities by increasing participation. Both services contribute positively to a reduction in crime. Local contractors are used to assist in the delivery of services where appropriate and good quality services encourage people to visit the borough, both of which assist in supporting the local economy.

E-Government implications:

The use of IT systems will assist in promoting the services more widely, a priority that is identified in the service improvement plans contained in this report.

Resource and legal implications:

The resource and legal implications arising from the reviews are set out in the improvement plans.
Background

1. The Local Government Act 1999 requires local authorities to review all their services. A report describing the scope of the 2002/3 Leisure Services reviews was presented to the Executive on 11th June 2002 following consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 27th May 2002. 2. A Service Review Group (SRG) undertook the detailed research and self-assessment. This comprised of officers directly involved in the service and those with an interest in it from other services and Departments. The Director of Planning was the independent chief officer responsible for the conduct of the reviews. A Fundamental Service Review team monitored all the 2002/3 reviews, providing a more strategic and streamlined approach.

Methodology

3. The reviews have been carried out in accordance with Government Guidelines to: a. challenge –why a service is being provided and whether it is being provided in the most appropriate way and at the appropriate level;
b. compare – performance with others providers to identify areas for improvement
c. consult – customers, partners, and other key stakeholders about the services under review
d. compete – to ensure fair and open competition is used in securing the services

4. The review process involved a number of elements which tested the 4C’s outlined above and these included: a. A Challenge Workshop - 30 key stakeholders and partners were invited to attend a formal workshop to assist in identifying what the Council currently does well, areas of weakness, areas of low priority and priorities for improvement.
b. Benchmarking exercises with other local authority grounds maintenance services and analysis of QUEST (UK Quality Accreditation for Sports Centres) to identify areas of weakness in operation of leisure centres.
c. Various consultation exercises including;
Citizens Panel Survey
Housing Tenant Consultation Group Questionnaire
Sports Pitch Users Survey
Parks User Survey
Sports Centre Customer Satisfaction Survey
Sports Centres Non User Survey

Reporting the findings

5. A summary of the key findings for Parks and Open Spaces and Sport and Recreation are at Annexes 1 and 3 respectively of this report. 6. Improvement Plans for Parks and Open Spaces and Sport and Recreation are set out in Annexes 2 and 4 respectively and highlight the key targets, actions, timetable and resources required to address the review findings.

7. In November 2005 the current Grounds Maintenance contract comes to an end. This will give the Council the opportunity to consider in light of the best value review any amendments to the current specification. Whilst the best value review has not identified any specific cost saving options relating to service improvements, officers have included in Annexe 5 options which Members may wish to adopt in light of increased budget pressures. However these must be considered alongside the service improvement options set out in Annexe 2.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Committee notes the report and;

1. agrees any observations to be forwarded to the Executive on the findings of the 2002/3 Leisure Services reviews at Annexes 1 and 3 and improvement plans at Annexes 2 and 4.
2. considers the additional cost saving options for the grounds maintenance specification as set out in Annexe 5 and agrees any observations to be forwarded to the Executive.

_________________________________________________________________________
Background Papers (DoE&L)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

_______________________________________________________________________

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Julie Maskery Telephone: 01483 523432

E-mail: jmaskery@waverley.gov.uk

Comms/oands3/03-04/52


ANNEXE 1

1.0 GROUNDS MAINTENANCE OPERATIONS

The review indicated that the majority of consultees were reasonably happy with the standards of grounds maintenance service provided across the borough. However three areas were identified as areas requiring improvement. These were:-

1.1 Grass Cutting in Housing Amenity Areas: - local residents have requested a higher standard of maintenance. Currently, the Grounds Maintenance Contract specifies amenity grass to be maintained between 30 - 150 mm. An enhanced standard would improve estate aesthetics, reduce littering and fly tipping and allow youngsters to play safely on the grass close to home.

1.2 Litter & Dog Mess Control in Parks & Open Spaces: - A frequently raised issue was that of litter and dog mess especially on and around playing pitches and open grassland areas. This was recognised as a reason for reduced parks visits and enjoyment of facilities.

1.3 Horticultural maintenance: - An improved standard of shrub pruning, hedge cutting and pro-active tree care was requested, especially by parks users and housing tenants.

2.0 SPORTS PITCH PROVISION & USAGE

Again, in general maintenance was seen to be acceptable in the majority of cases, but a number of issues were raised as requiring clarification or improvement. Those issues related to both the quantity and quality of facility provision including: -

2.1 requests for an improved management arrangement with the six recreation grounds in Farnham

2.2 the need to maintain a balance between sport and informal recreational activity

2.3 the need for additional specialist grounds maintenance operations (such as de-compaction of winter sports pitches) in order to deal with excessive usage of some facilities, and additional league requirements.

2.4 Poor drainage was contributing to poor quality playing surfaces on some sites.

3.0 PLAYGROUND PROVISION

The review indicated that children's play areas constituted a major reason for visiting parks, recreation grounds and amenity areas. A number of issues were highlighted by the consultation process: -

3.1 The Council’s play provision was felt to be relatively poor, was aimed at too narrow an age group, and was not very interesting or stimulating. It was recognised that much of the existing equipment was very old.

3.2 There is in general very little teenage provision currently.

3.3 A benchmarking exercise with other local authorities in the Surrey, Sussex and Berkshire area would indicate that Waverley’s expenditure on play provision is small in comparison to other authorities. These findings can be further supported by the inspection and maintenance records of the Parks Section which show high maintenance costs (predominantly due to age of the equipment) & insufficient capital replacement budgets resulting in the council not being able to replace dilapidated equipment.

4.0 ASSET PROVISION & MAINTENANCE

4.1 Consultees expressed their concern regarding the lack of and condition of facilities and general level of dilapidation in parks and recreation ground infrastructure. In addition, it was felt that there was insufficient repairs & maintenance of parks assets, but this was not generally recognised as being due to insufficient resources.

4.2 Vandalism was acknowledged as a major cause of deterioration, and it was felt that a number of problems needed to be addressed quickly to discourage repeat problems and make a positive difference to users. These were:-
Building repairs and graffiti removal are not being carried out quickly enough, leading to a general feeling of neglect.
Poor toilet facilities and lack of seating were listed as major concerns especially for parents & children, and the elderly. Other street furniture such as dog mess bins, interpretation boards and bicycle racks were also highlighted as being under provided.
5.0 PARKS SECURITY ISSUES

The review identified that the public had concerns regarding parks security and availability of staff: -

5.1 It was recognised that currently none of Waverley’s parks and recreation grounds had a permanent staff presence, with maintenance being carried out between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm Monday - Friday, by mobile teams or individuals employed by external contractors.

5.2 It was reported that a number of sites (e.g. Broadwater Park) were perceived to have problems with anti-social behaviour, graffiti, vandalism & drug taking, especially during evenings and after dusk.

5.3 Byelaws were not generally visible on site, and not enforced

The perception that some sites are unsafe has the negative effect of dissuading visits to the park by local people. Benchmarking comparisons would concur that this is a commonly held view across the region. This problem has been addressed by a number of Local Authorities including Guildford BC, Spelthorne BC and Rushmoor BC by establishing mobile security patrol units to carry out out-of-hours security patrols.

6.0 PUBLICITY & INTERPRETATION

6.1 Consultees commented that they were unaware of the facilities provided in recreation grounds and that publicity and information was lacking. In addition, there were very few sites that had any form of information boards on site. To provide a more customer focused service, information boards could be used to display byelaws, provide emergency and other contact details and promote better awareness of up-and-coming events.

ANNEXE 2

ITEM REF
ACTION
BY WHOM
BY WHEN (Month End)
BUDGET IMPLICATIONS
SETTING UP RESOURCES / COSTS 000
ANNUAL RESOURCES / COSTS 000
SAVINGS 000
1.1Improve grass cutting specificationP & OS SectionNovember 2005Additional Costs at retendering stageStaff time during re-tendering preparation
50,000
None
1.2Transfer responsibility for litter collection in Parks to Grounds Maintenance Contract at retendering of blue collar contractsP & OS Section working with Environmental ServicesNovember 2005No change
Transfer of budget from Env. Services to Leisure Services
Staff time - to be included in re-tendering exercise
000
None
1.3,
3.0,
5.1,
5.3
Consider proposals to establish dedicated park staff to work in key parks to carry out a range of maintenance and security duties to include litter collection, cleaning, inspection, security, public relations and enforcement of byelaws. Investigate staffing options with Arkeco GM.
Investigate contractual obligations with Environmental Services for Street Cleaning & Pub Cons Contracts
Prior to finalising contract specification - Summer 2004Aim to work within existing GM and ES budgets. Transfer of budget from Environmental Services to Leisure ServicesNone
None
None
1.0, 2.0,
4.0
5.0
6.0
Change the current GM Contract Quality Management System at Blue Collar re-tendering stage by withdrawing funding from contract to directly employ a Parks Client Officer to monitor GM Contract through inspection, and work in a more proactive way to address routine issues. P & OS Section and Env. Services November 2005No Change.
Transfer of budgets from GM Contractor to HR budget
Staff time - to be included in re-tendering exercise
000
None
2.1Work pro-actively with Farnham Recreation Grounds to establish a more effective management agreement for 6 sitesHead of Leisure Services & staff from P & OS, Sport & Recreation, Property Services, Legal ServicesApril 2004Process currently not thought to involve costs.Staff time from various sections
000
None
2.2,
2.3
2.4
Establish a rolling programme of scheduled sports pitch improvements in line with recommendation of Playing Pitch Strategy including drainage worksP & OS sectionOngoingRolling programme as budget allows until completionNone
Awaiting report findings
None


ITEM REF
ACTION
BY WHOM
BY WHEN (Month End)
BUDGET IMPLICATIONS
SETTING UP RESOURCES / COSTS 000
ANNUAL RESOURCES / COSTS 000
SAVINGS 000
3.0Draw up a Fixed Play Equipment Strategy to assess provision and community need and identify priorities for improvementP & OS sectionOngoingIncreased Capital budget No additional resources required
Rolling programme as budget allows until completion
None
3.1
3.2
Work with WBC Planning Dept to ensure that all Section 106 agreements give consideration to play facility provision / improvements either on site or in Parks & Open SpacesP & OS section & Planning DeptOngoingIncome for play provisionStaff Time
000
Income dependant on type and quantity of building developments
Income from developments may result in reduced budgetary need for play area improvements
5.3,
6.1
Establish a budget to provide information boards in key parks sites to publicise byelaws, activities, events, meetings and local contacts.P & OSRolling Programme of installation 1000 per information board. 4000 per interpretation panel.Staff time to be contained within existing capacity if in line with other site developments.
30,000 in total for materials
Rolling programme as budget allows until completion
None
5.0,
5.3
Work with Legal & Committee Services Sections to update byelaws for Parks, Recreation Grounds & amenity areas and include issues such as security and cyclingHead of Leisure Services, P & OS Staff, Legal Services, Committee ServicesMarch 2005Minimal costs associated with advertising proposed changes. Staff Time
Printing & publicity costs for all sites 10,000
None
None
4.1,
4.2
Establish an ongoing budget to deal with repairs and adaptations to parks assets in line with H & S and DDA requirementsP & OS SectionDDA - Oct 2004,
Asset repairs ongoing
Annual asset repairs budget Staff time
50,000 per annum
None

ANNEXE 3

KEY FINDINGS FROM SPORT AND RECREATION BEST VALUE REVIEW



1. MARKETING OF LEISURE SERVICES 2. DETERIORATING LEISURE BUILDINGS 3. MAJOR REFURBISHMENT OF FARNHAM SPORTS CENTRE 4. NEW LEISURE CENTRE FOR GODALMING 5. LEISURE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE 6. PASSPORT TO LEISURE SCHEME
ANNEXE 4

4.Provision of a new Godalming Leisure Centre. Ongoing consultations continue to be carried out with key stakeholders and other Council departments. Procurement options need to be considered when capital budget has been identified for the scheme.Head of Leisure Services/ Sport and Recreation ManagerOngoingOfficer time. Unknown at present.Unknown dependent upon outcome of options appraisal. Subject of future report to MembersUnknown dependent upon outcome of options appraisal. Subject of future report to MembersNA
5.Waverley strategic policy for young people to be produced, involving key partners, reflecting young peoples identified needs.Head of Leisure Services/Sport and Recreation ManagerMay 2004Officer TimeOfficer Time0NA
6.Review of the Passport to Leisure scheme to be undertaken, to include reduced charges for other leisure and cultural services (also links to marketing of leisure services). Scheme to be retained.Head of Leisure Services/Leisure Service ManagersJune 2004Officer Time0Existing annual budget of 1,500 to promote and develop schemeNA
ANNEXE 5
COST SAVING OPTIONS FOR GROUNDS MAINTENANCE SPECIFICATION


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.