Parish Council involvement in landscape management

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Brian Barton (Parish Clerk) and I attended another meeting today with Andy Hudson (Head of Environment and Waste at Milton Keynes Council) and John Price (Landscape Manager of MK Council) to discuss our involvement in managing the landscaping in the Parish.

Landscape management comprises the maintenance of those areas of land which falls under the responsibility of the Council (rather than others such as the Parks Trust or private owners). It includes grass cutting, shrub pruning and tree work not involving working at height. The Localism Act 2011 legislated to decentralise power to local communities including transferring assets and services. MK Council has invited the Parish to take over responsibility for management of landscaping as part of this.

Today’s meeting was part of a series of meetings which have happened over a couple of years and during which time there has been significant change. We have now reached a point where it seems there is a clearer way forward with this.

One option is for landscaping to be entirely devolved to the Parish Council and we could contract with our own supplier. Overall, this solution works best for larger Parishes and where there is a long track record of experience. L&GHPC is a small Parish with a skeleton staff and we have no track record of any involvement in landscape management so it would be a large leap to take on responsibility ourselves. This does not seem an appropriate step, at least at the present time.

Should therefore we leave arrangements alone and do nothing and allow our landscape maintenance to be managed from outside the Parish and with little or no local involvement? For a number of reasons I strongly think the answer to that is no.

We discussed an alternative solution where MKC gives L&GHPC agency power to manage the landscaping budget. They would provide us with training on the contract specification which consists of various key documents. We would have quarterly meetings with SERCO and Frosts who deliver the landscaping services. We would form a L&GHPC landscape working group which would review the current state of the landscape and identify issues for discussion with the contractor. We would provide an input into checking the service delivery to ensure it was compliant with the contract specification. We would provide some funding ourselves which we could contribute towards re-planting and improvement of the area. We could also find funds within the existing budget by resource-switching towards priorities which local people approved. We could also integrate some of the existing landscaping responsibilities we have with the SERCO contract where savings and efficiencies could be achieved. We will also access expert advise from MKC’s horticultural experts.

Overall, I hope the Parish Council will see that our involvement in management of our local landscape has the potential through Localism to achieve both efficiency savings and improvement in outcomes which will make Loughton and Great Holm an area noted for the excellence and beauty of its local landscape and management.

Peter Todd

Chair, Loughton & Great Holm Parish Council

3rd December 2015

 

 

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Landscape maintenance in the Parish

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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

 

 

 

 

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