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Budget Proposal 2024/25: Reduce frequency of parks, open spaces and verge maintenance

Have your say.

Consultation status Results published
Start date: 2023-11-27
End date: 2024-01-11
Results 2024-02-29
Category:
Ward:

Activity closed. Results published.

Balanced scales

Background

West Berkshire Council's Countryside Service manages grounds maintenance services across the district. The current grounds maintenance contract, which commenced in January 2023, provides for the grass maintenance of several hundred small open spaces, large public parks and open spaces, and highway grass verges. It also covers litter collection, including dog waste bins and litter bins in these areas. Other services provided include sports pitch maintenance and the management of Henwick Worthy Sports Ground.

These services impact directly on our residents and communities. Many residents will use our parks, open spaces and sports facilities, and almost all will benefit from having green open spaces and verges with trees within the streets where they live.

The grounds maintenance contract currently delivers:

  • an average of 7 cuts a year of urban residential grass verges
  • an average of 7 cuts a year of residential open space grass areas
  • weekly collection of litter from parks and open spaces

This is comparable to services provided by other councils, albeit many councils are currently reviewing their service levels.

The Countryside Team is also responsible for local delivery of biodiversity services, such as the management of rural grass verges and urban nature reserves. Increasingly we are working with communities to improve urban areas and parks for wildlife. Over the last two years, the council has been working with the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) to identify verges on the rural road network which can support wildflowers. 


Legislation Requirements

There is no statutory requirement for the delivery of grounds maintenance services. The council has a responsibility under the various highways acts to maintain a safe urban and rural verge network.


What we are proposing

We are proposing to:

  • reduce the number of cuts on urban residential grass verges from 7 to 2 per year
  • reduce grass cutting on residential open space grass areas from 7 to 4 per year

As a consequence of reduced grass cutting there will also be a reduction in the frequency of litter picking on grass verges and open spaces across the district, as this is carried out as part of the grass maintenance operation. 

This should realise a saving of up to £220,000.

Please note: in addition to these grounds maintenance proposals, we are also consulting on reducing the number of dog waste and litter bins. You can find more information here.


What we think the impact will be

We think that this proposal will have the following impacts:

  • the council has recently enhanced its Climate Emergency declaration to include an Ecological Emergency. It is anticipated that reduced grass cutting can help improve local biodiversity and the abundance of wildlife, for example, there will be an increased food source for birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects. We intend to work with communities who may want to manage their own doorstep verge for wildflowers
  • the grass on residential grass verges will be left for large parts of the summer and will grow sufficiently long to set seed
  • litter may gather in long grass, resulting in some areas becoming unsightly and this could potentially create hazards, for example, glass bottles left by litterers within the grass
  • there may be an abundance of grass seed in residential areas which may have an impact on some pets
  • there will be increased grass pollen in local residential areas
  • it will be more difficult for dog walkers and owners to collect dog poo from long grass
  • long grass will be much more difficult to cut in wet weather and could therefore look more unsightly after cutting
  • grass will set seed into gutters and drains, leading to grass and weeds growing along the carriageway edge
  • grass on residential areas will also grow much longer between cuts
  • grass in open spaces could grow sufficiently long that it restricts children's play, either as a consequence of longer grass or grass clumps lying on the surface after cutting
  • litter in key parks will remain over the weekends until it is collected on the following Monday

Icon for pdf Please refer to the Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) for more details. [33KB]

You can report problems on a road or pavement, or in parks, countryside and open space, including fly tipping, potholes and broken streetlights on our website.


What else we have considered before arriving at our proposal

We are in discussion with the contractor about other options to reduce grounds maintenance costs. We also considered reducing the grass cutting frequency from 7 cuts to 2 across all areas, but that is not being recommended as selected sites, such as open recreational spaces and playing pitches, will need to be cut more frequently.


Why we want your views

We would like to know how these proposals might impact you and the wider community, and any views you have on how we can minimise the impact of these proposed changes, if the decision is taken to proceed with them.


How to take part

If you'd like to comment on these proposals, please complete our survey by midnight on Thursday, 11 January 2024. It should take about 10 minutes. 

If you have any questions about the consultation, please email environmentconsult@westberks.gov.uk

For general information about Parks and Countryside Maintenance and Management, please visit our webpage.


What happens next

All the feedback we receive will be taken into consideration, and a final decision whether to proceed with these proposals will be made by elected Members at the Full Council Meeting to be held on Thursday, 29 February 2024.

If the decision is made to proceed with these proposals, the changes will be implemented from 1 April 2024.

 

Back to the main Budget Proposal page

What you told us

In total,165 responses were received.


A summary of the responses received is included in the agenda papers for each public meeting.

What we did

The budget for 2024/25 will be considered by councillors at the Executive meeting on Thursday, 8 February 2024, and then by Full Council on Thursday, 29 February 2024. It will also be discussed by members of the Special Scrutiny Commission on Tuesday, 6 February 2024.

All meetings will be open to the public and residents can attend either in person at the Market Street Offices or virtually.

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