From: George, Russell (Aelod Cynulliad | Assembly Member)
Sent: 14 March 2017
Dear Cllr John
I refer to the very high level of complaints I received last year regarding uncut grass throughout Montgomeryshire.
We are now once again in the ‘grass growing’ season and I write to you to receive reassurance that this year will see an improvement on the grass cutting service provided by Powys County Council.
I am very aware to the financial constraints that are face by the authority however the situation that presented itself last year was unacceptable. It was apparent to me by the level of complaints I received in my office last year that the number of cuts received was at an unacceptable level.
Long grass in unsightly and provides an image of neglect to both residents and visitors to the area. This undoubtedly has a negative effect on our area.
In my email dated 5th July 2016 I requested a review of this provision and I would be grateful for an update on the councils position on this provision for the forthcoming season.
Please can you provide me with the number of grass cuts that can be expected this year and when grass cutting work will commence?
Please can you provide me with the number of grass cuts that were received over the past 5 years, as it would be useful to have this comparison at hand.
It would be helpful to have a detailed reply.
I look forward to receiving your response, which I hope can provide some reassurances for the forthcoming months.
Russell George AM
From: George, Russell
Sent: 05 July 2016
Dear Cllr John
Thank you for your email regarding problems associated with long grass in the Newtown and surrounding area.
I am of course aware that Powys County Council is facing financial constraints, however, to have the situation that is presented this year is unacceptable.
I have received a high level of complaints regarding this matter. I would be grateful if you could review the councils position for future years.
It appears to me that the number of cuts have been reduced to an unacceptable level alongside the problems associated with the contractors.
I would be pleased to discuss this with you at some point.
Russell George AM
Sent: 04 July 2016
To: George, Russell
RE: Long grass problems in Newtown
Further to your email received the 9th June regarding long grass problems in Newtown. You will recall the £200k budget reduction specific to the Highways Grounds Maintenance Operations which was made in 2014/15. In addition a reduction of £160k is required to be delivered in the Leisure and Recreation Ground Maintenance budget over the next few years starting in 2016/17. The value of the current Contract is £318k per annum which encompasses all County Council commissioned grass cutting and therefore Members will appreciate the scale of the reductions required by the Council.
One of the actions to accommodate these budget reductions is to reduce the many variances in cutting regimes and standards to a common and minimal specification. In simple terms the standards now are:
Municipal Areas – 10 cuts per year
Highway Urban Verge Area – 3 cuts per year
Highway Rural Verges – 1 cut per year
Another outcome from the service review was to re-tender the county grounds maintenance service to ensure best value and that existing contracts were updated and compliant. The subsequent tender process resulting in one contractor winning all 7 contract lots for the municipal and urban verges and one contractor being successful in winning the 3 rural verges contract lots.
Due to the timing of the contract award, a phased start from the north to the south of the county was agreed in order to allow reasonable time for the contractor to recruit the additional staff and equipment required. Completion of the first urban verge cut has suffered and is likely to finish at the beginning of July approximately one week behind schedule. Steps have been taken to address these initial issues, including payments being reduced and withheld. We are confident that the contractor is very capable of meeting the specified standards and that the recent improvement in performance demonstrated is positive.
Action taken to gain a significant improvement in performance has included direct contact with the Company Owners, regular meetings with the Company Director, significant increase in the number of operative’s to gain rapid progress with the backlog of work, and ongoing liaison to ensure the service specification is achieved in the shortest possible time scale.
Having acknowledged that some issues with initial performance do exist, it should be noted and recognised that the minimal standard specified within the contracts may well fall short of the expectation of many people. The grass verges in Mill Close, Canal road, Millfields and Milford road will receive just 3 cuts per year as urban highway areas and it is inevitable that there will be areas of long grass at times leading up to a scheduled cut. The impact of the minimal service level specification may be more evident in the north of the county this year due to the fact that last year, the previous contractor continued to carry out an enhanced service in some areas over and above what was scheduled and without payment.
Councillor John Brunt