To consider an update on the Grounds Maintenance contract following the Committee’s review of the Grass Cutting service in 2018.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 23 to 50, which provided an update on the delivery of the grass cutting service in 2019. This followed the Scrutiny review of the service carried out in 2018.
Sarah Hollamby (Director of Customer and Locality Services) and Emma Pilgrim (Place Clienting) attended the meeting to answer Member questions.
The report stated that the Scrutiny review had made a number of recommendations to improve the service which were subsequently accepted by the Council’s Executive. An action plan had then been developed in conjunction with the Council’s contractor, Tivoli Group Ltd.
The report gave details of progress since the commencement of the planned grass cutting season in mid-March 2019. Officers had worked closely with the contractor to monitor progress and escalate potential issues before they became problematic. As a result, customer complaints were significantly lower year-on-year, with 11 justified complaints received in 2019 compared to 168 in 2018.
In order to keep Members up-to-date on progress weekly updates had been provided since the grass cutting programme commenced. The updates gave details of the areas where grass cutting was taking place and provided links to the system used for reporting issues.
In the ensuing discussion Members raised the following points:
Generally, Members were pleased with the delivery of the service in 2019, with fewer complaints and more positive feedback from residents.
In relation to KPI 6: Justified Complaints – Grass, why had the target increased from 24 complaints to 50 complaints? It was confirmed that the new target was felt to be more realistic and was more of a SMART target.
As a result of the recent wet weather which may be followed by significant grass growth, was the contractor prepared for the potential increase in work required? It was confirmed that regular meetings were held with the contractor to discuss resourcing. Also, contingency plans were in place to deliver additional equipment to meet extra demands on the service.
What was the timeframe for further update reports to the Committee? It was confirmed that a further update was scheduled for the end of the grass cutting season in October 2019. A further update report could also be provided before the start of next year’s grass cutting season, in February 2020.
In relation to the wildflower areas across the Borough, there did not appear to be a large number of wildflowers amongst the long grass. Was there a programme for delivering more wild flowers? It was confirmed that discussions were ongoing with the contractor on this issue.
Members noted the environmental benefits arising from the additional long grass/wildflower areas and suggested that Officers hold discussions with Town and Parish Councils on this issue. Members also noted the potential health issues, e.g. hay fever, which could arise out of the introduction of additional long grass areas.
1) Sarah Hollamby and Emma Pilgrim be thanked for attending the meeting to answer Member questions;
2) further update reports be submitted to the Committee in October 2019 and February 2020;
3) Officers be requested to hold discussions with Town and Parish Councils about the location and content of long grass/wildflower areas across the Borough.