Park work to go back in-house as council faces funding gap

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Grounds maintenance at parks and cemeteries in south Bradford could be managed in-house by the local authority for the first time in more than 18 years.

Bradford Council, which is facing a funding gap in the next financial year of around £30m, is considering returning the delivery of grounds maintenance and ancillary activities at the sites, which also include recreation grounds, sports pitches and bowling greens, from an external supplier to directly employed staff.

Members of the local authority’s executive committee will be advised to back the proposal when they meet on Tuesday.

The contract for grounds maintenance and ancillary works in the constituency of Bradford South and parts of Bradford East and Bradford West is currently held by Glendale Grounds Management Ltd and is due to expire at the end of March next year.

The contract includes grounds maintenance to parks, recreation grounds, sports pitches, bowling greens, highway verges, play areas and other green spaces; grave digging; supervision of sports pitch lettings including fixed site staff and winter maintenance activity to Adult and Children Services’ properties

The area, which also incorporates most of Clayton, City and Bowling/Barkerend wards plus the whole of Little Horton, includes Scholemoor, North Bierley, Bowling, Queensbury, Clayton and Tong cemeteries.

It also includes playing fields and some cricket grounds, more than 20 recreation grounds and parks such as Bowling Park, Wibsey Park and Victoria Park in Clayton.

Bradford Council used to take care of the grounds maintenance at the sites in the area before the contract was awarded for the first time in 1994.

If councillors back the scheme, grounds maintenance and associated work in the Bradford South area would be brought back to an in-house service under a single management structure in the council’s Parks and Green Spaces Service from April 2013.

Ian Bairstow, Bradford Council’s strategic director for environment and sport, said: “Several options have been considered to retain good quality, cost effective services for the upkeep of green spaces over the coming years and retain the ability to respond to the wide ranging budget issues which we face.

“The recommended option is to bring the work back in-house to be run by the council’s Parks and Green Spaces Service. This would provide a number of benefits including:

Increasing the size of the directly managed workforce to improve district wide resilience

The ability to work in partnership with other council departments or voluntary sector agencies

Being able to draw on greater cross organisational support in emergencies, such as providing gritting in winter weather

Lower overall management costs through combined contract management and operational delivery roles

Ability to work at a local level in a flexible way and develop closer working relationships with local communities.

Improved flexibility and agility around service standards and policies to meet budget challenges

If the executive agree to bring the work back in-house it will also support devolution of service responsibilities to area committees.”

A report to be considered by the executive committee says the current service provided through the contract agreement costs the council £975,000 annually.

It says that an in-house option would be “broadly comparable and potentially less as the service is integrated back to the council and re-engineered into area committee boundaries”.

It adds: “The overall findings of the financial analysis concludes that there would be no increase in cost and, in fact, a marginal saving in costs should the existing work in ‘Bradford South’ be carried out using directly employed staff.”