Grounds maintenance performance reviewed

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News release: 17 July 2018

A performance review of St Albans City and District Council’s grounds maintenance contract has found that grass cutting was disrupted earlier this year by the weather.

Verulamium Park
Higher than average rainfall and snow in February forced the Council’s contractor, John O’Conner, to postpone the start of the grass cutting season to March.

Prolonged wet weather and above-average temperatures then followed through to May, providing “excellent” growing conditions that resulted in longer grass. This “hindered” the time taken for mowing and the quality of the cut, according to a report discussed on 12 July by the Community, Environment and Sport Scrutiny Committee.

The Committee heard that performance under the grounds maintenance contract is monitored, through weekly site visits, data analysis and logging of customer enquiries. This helps the Council identify operational issues and any actions that need to be taken by its contractor.

During May and June, the number of customer enquiries received increased with the majority relating to grass cutting. Other issues identified by customers during this period included shrub maintenance, litter and cleaning of hard surfaces.

Drier and warmer weather has since enabled the Council’s contractor to meet the mowing standard specified in the contract. As a result, the number of customer enquiries received about grass cutting has significantly reduced.

Councillor Anthony Rowlands, Chair of the Community, Environment and Sport Scrutiny Committee for St Albans City and District Council, said: “It was a difficult start to the grass cutting season for the Council’s contractors with mowing delayed due to bad weather in February. This situation was exacerbated by perfect grass-growing conditions in the spring which resulted in longer grass that was tricky to cut. The change to hotter and drier weather has since slowed grass growth, enabling the Council’s contractor to comply with contract specification and grass-cutting standards.

“However, the Committee was very concerned to learn that software issues associated with logging of real-time information on contractor’s progress have still not been resolved two years after implementation of this module. It’s disappointing that this has not been sorted out after so long. We expect officers to be able to reassure us at our next meeting in September that the problems are being rectified.”

A webcast of the meeting on 12 July and relevant agenda and papers can be viewed on the Council’s website.

Councillor contact:
Councillor Anthony Rowlands, Chair of the Community, Environment and Sport Scrutiny Committee for St Albans City and District Council 
Mob: 07761232064
Email: anthonyrowlands@hotmail.com

Contact for the media:
Amanda Wilkinson,
Senior Communications Officer,
St Albans City and District Council,
Tel: 01727 819317 
E-mail: amanda.wilkinson@stalbans.gov.uk 
www.stalbans.gov.uk
Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StAlbansCouncil 

Notes:
St Albans City and District Council’s grounds maintenance contract covers grass cutting at council-owned parks and open spaces, council housing estates and council-owned cemeteries. It does not cover the cutting of roadside grass verges which is the responsibility of Hertfordshire County Council.

St Albans City and District Council has two Scrutiny Committees that take an overview of all the activities the Council is involved in. The committees can decide to examine particular activities in depth, review polices and make suggestions for change and improvement.