Agenda item

Grounds Maintenance - The Future of Agreements with Parish Councils


David Burton, Director of Streetpride, gave a verbal update on the future of agreements with Parish Councils relating to grounds maintenance.


He gave a brief overview of the recent budget setting exercise in light of the meeting the pressures of the reduce Comprehensive Spending Review highlighting:-


-        Rotherham had a saving target of approximately £30M, the majority of which would be in the next financial year.  Streetpride’s target was £5M, 1/2 of which was contained within a group of Services which were covered by Leisure and Green Spaces and Community Delivery including sports facilities, street cleansing, grounds maintenance etc.


-        The Council would have to commence withdrawing the support for street cleansing and grounds maintenance functions to Parish Councils amounting to £200,000 of savings, 8% of the total target 


-        Grounds maintenance included public open spaces, maintenance of horticultural features, sports grounds facilities, hedge maintenance and playground litter clearance and in some cases safety inspections.  The single biggest element was sport pitches and building maintenance which accounted for 60% of the total £200,000


-        It should be noted that the maintenance and provision of such facilities under the ownership of the Council was discretionary and, therefore, at the next tier of local government it was the same discretionary function 


-        Clearly this was not expenditure that would have been anticipated by Parish Councils but there was a year to prepare and make local decisions as to which facilities they wished to retain and the level they wished to maintain them going forward


-        Over the next few weeks contact would be made with the Parish Clerks to start discussions on the areas that were maintained by the Council, how they were maintained and what technical support could be offered in considering standards, frequency and maintenance that a Parish Council may wish to develop for itself.  Help could be given in terms of establishing a consistent charging policy which may generate more income to sustain the facilities


-        A quote could also be provided for an at cost maintenance service


Discussion took place with the following issues raised/clarified:-


o       Contact would be made with each Parish and all the information on the areas the Council currently maintained/work carried out by the Council would be available


o       Contact would be made with local voluntary groups with regard to the use of volunteers as well as assistance in the provision of joint training.  The replacement for the Future Jobs Fund could provide almost a zero cost supply of labour to help the transition.  The Council had contact with Phoenix Enterprises and would be happy to facilitate links with the Parish Councils


o       The aim would be to provide support at cost and would hire equipment out if there was capacity to do so


o       If it was possible to inform Parish Councils of a schedule of grasscutting etc. it would be done


o       The Council had a statutory duty to ensure highway safety and would not be comprised by the budget cuts.  Work had started last year in removing shrub beds and replaced with easier maintenance features


o       For years parished areas had provided facilities which the Borough Council had maintained.  Parish Councils were now expected to take on the responsibility for the maintenance without consideration being given as to the effect on the precept especially in those areas that had no Borough Council facilities.  There would be unparished areas that had Borough Council facilities that would be maintained.  The funding should be shared out amongst the facilities that were currently provided so there was no double rating

It would not solely be the Parish Councils feeling the effect of the savings but the Borough Council’s own open spaces and sports facilities would be affected.  If the savings could be achieved in a different way which enabled Parish Councils to maintain their facilities there was a commitment to do so


Agreed:-  (1)  That the presentation be noted.


(2)  That, once the restructure was complete, all Councillors and Parish Councils be supplied with a list of employees (and contact numbers) working in their areas.