Earlier this summer, Wokingham Borough Council launched an ambitious, long-term grounds maintenance and grass cutting contract that will improve the Wokingham Borough’s environment and allow us to maintain our parks, play areas and verges to the high standard residents expect.
The contract (with ISS Facility Services) is a new and innovative way of working. It will allow us to focus on maintaining the grass areas that are most important to residents while keeping costs to an affordable level within our ever-tightening budgets. As before, safety remains paramount, especially verges on roads with tight bends.
The contract will mean:
- We no longer have the rigid grass cutting schedule that saw all grass cut a set number of times a year regardless of how important it was to local people. The new contract allows for flexibility so that our contractors can cut important areas more often
- We will further develop wild flower meadows as the contract develops
- We will leave some areas of larger parks uncut in order to create natural homes for bugs, bees and birds to thrive. We need these areas to meet our biodiversity aspirations but we also believe that, with wide paths cut through them, they make an attractive addition to our parks
- In the longer term, the contract will be more focused on customer satisfaction – what you think will matter rather than just how many rounds of cuts are carried out. In saying that I would also add that it is clear not everyone agrees with the longer grass areas whilst others have congratulated us on providing this diversity. We will continue to try to find consensus
These are the reasons why we have made this significant change. We believe they are based on sound principles of flexibility, efficiency, environmental protection and customer satisfaction.
But like many good ideas put into practice for the first time, things did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. We know grass got too long in some residential areas and I am particular saddened that some young people could not get on to popular grassy areas to play for a few weeks.
I want to apologise on behalf of the borough council for those problems. To explain, there were a few factors that caused the issues:
- The grass grew quickly due to the weather conditions – there’s nothing we can do about the weather but our flexible contract will allow for better planning in years to come
- We had to start this contract in April which did not allow enough time for the new contractor to prepare fully for the summer – that is why our new contract is for ten and half years so it will end in an October
- There was some misinterpretation of our proposals to leave some grass long, in particular in residential areas - once alerted to this, our contractor sent out two hit squads to deal with the problem and worked with residents and council officers to identify areas that needed a catch-up cut
As a result of the swift remedial actions by our team and our contractors, I am delighted to say that most of the issues have been resolved and our verges, parks and play areas are being kept appropriately neat and tidy.
We did not get it right first time and we accept the shortcomings. So, although in this instance the first cut may not have been the deepest – or the best – I believe this was a temporary problem and we can look forward to providing a high-quality grass cutting service that responds to residents needs and keeps our borough looking great in the future.
Cllr Angus Ross
Wokingham Borough Council’s executive member for environment