Brian (Parish Clerk) and I attended a meeting today with Andy Hudson (Head of Environment and Waste at MK Council and John Price (Landscape Manager, MK Council) to discuss the devolution of landscape maintenance services from MK Council to the Loughton & Great Holm Parish Council.
MK Council have now let a borough-wide landscape maintenance contract to SERCO after a round of bids involving 12 bidders. This was approved by the MK Council Cabinet on 16th April. At the moment the services are delivered by MK Council’s in-house staff but SERCO will take over with effect from 3rd November 2014.
SERCO already hold the street cleansing contract from MK Council and this is not likely to devolve any time soon. SERCO will do a street clean at the same time as undertaking landscape works. We will be able to liaise with supervisor Dave Reeve and overall manager Mark Sturgeon. The SERCO contract does not require us to continue to employ SERCO so we could re-tender or let the contract to another local supplier if not satisfied. The rates in the SERCO contract are likely to be competitive however – and there is the additional benefit of them doing street cleansing at the same time.
As part of the transfer of responsibility for services under the Localism Act, maintenance of landscape services is being transferred in some areas to Parish Councils. Olney, Ravenstone & Stony Stratford all took over responsibility from 1st April 2014. Weston Underwood have been responsible for their own landscaping for the last 15+ years and have successful won “best kept village” awards on numerous occasions.
At the meeting today we discussed the mechanics of the Parish Council taking over responsibility for managing the services. We will receive a grant from MK Council to fund the contract. They will provide us with the detailed specification, contract terms and rates and plan. We will then review this and see how it will integrate with our existing maintenance responsibilities – such as the Millennium Meadow and the Loughton sports ground. We can see how we can tailor services and switch resources around to meet local priorities. We would of course need to consult with MK Council re any major changes.
I asked to see a copy of the street cleansing specification so we can be aware of the current contractual requirements and potentially we can carry out spot checks to see that the obligations are being performed. This additional monitoring could be a useful service for local residents to ensure the environment is kept in good order and not allowed to deteriorate without anyone being aware.
We agreed to aim for a “go live” date for transfer of responsibility for 3rd November 2014 – subject of course to formal approval of the arrangements by the Parish Council and MK Council.
Landscape maintenance covers grass cutting, shrub cutting and trees.
I’d be interested to hear views from local residents about the current landscape maintenance and where it could be improved or made more efficient. There may be areas we can allow to grow where it would not cause any hazard and might benefit local wildlife. Please let us have your comments to this blog post