Council cutback challenges: Council workers are maintaining enough grassland in Argyll and Bute to cover the entire area of Monaco – but sometimes struggling to be available to cut it.
A report has revealed that two million square metres of open grassland space is maintained by the authority’s staff – equivalent to the size of 257 Hampden Park football pitches.
It also says that parts of the area have not had their grass cut to specifications as determined by the council, with competing demands including burials and bin collections.
The budget available for grass cutting has also been reduced by more than 15% since the 2013/14 financial year.
A report on the issue will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee on Thursday.
The document, written by Kirsty Flanagan, the council’s executive director with responsibility for roads and infrastructure, said: “Over the course of last year there were a number of service delivery issues in Cowal, and to a lesser extent across the wider council area, where grassland maintenance had not been carried out to the pre-determined specification.
“This was due in part to a limited level of resilience within the team, an ageing demographic in the workforce, and a number of sickness absences, some of which were medium to long term.
“With the exception of Cowal, the rest of the council area was generally delivered to the specification, although the same limited level of resilience exists across all the council area.
“The current specification has been formed over time, and originated from historic grass cutting schedules that were in place prior to Argyll and Bute being established as a local authority in 1996.
“In recent times those historic schedules have been amended through a succession of budget reductions.”
The report states that all sports fields in the area are scheduled to be cut 21 times a year, with other facilities, such as amenity areas and cemeteries, subject to different specifications by area. These vary from 12 in Bute to 17 for Lorn and Lomond.
She continued: “Reducing the number of cuts any further is not considered to be achievable in terms of delivering meaningful savings.
“Fewer cuts mean the grass is longer when it is cut, so the time to complete the tasks increase and the strain on equipment is greater.
“This would lead to more equipment down-time and greater maintenance and/or replacement costs.
“The current service standards are achievable within the existing budget, staffing and machinery framework. However, resources are so closely matched to those standards that there is limited, if any, resilience to respond to issues which inevitably arise.
“Decisions are having to be made on a regular basis to prioritise what work can be carried out with the available resource.
“It is not unusual for our operational supervisors and managers to be faced with competing demands, including digging graves/burying the dead, collecting bins, making safe potentially dangerous defects and grass cutting.
“Inevitably, but unfortunately, grass cutting often has to be left.
“Last year, in one of the administrative areas, there was an unusual increase in burials over a period which meant that very little grass was cut.
“Although the provision of a grass cutting service is a non-statutory function, the effective maintenance of public open spaces supports the economic development and growth of the area both in terms of attracting tourists as well as new residents.
“Providing and suitably maintaining sporting facilities also supports another strategic priority – allowing people to live active, healthier and independent lives.”
Click here to read the original article
For the latest industry news visit turfmatters.co.uk/news
Get all of the big headlines, pictures, opinions and videos on stories that matter to you.
You can also find us on Facebook for more of your must-see news, features, videos and pictures from Turf Matters.