Like all local authorities, Babergh District Council has not been immune from the reduction in budgets and has been working with The Landscape Group idverde to reduce expenditure without impacting on the overall appearance of the District.
In 2011, with trials of revised routes, manpower and machinery to determine the success of the joint solution. As part of the cost saving exercise, the client wished to reduce the maintenance costs for shrubs & hedges. Shrub maintenance frequencies were halved, as was the workforce. TLG idverde put a heavy reduction programme in place for all shrubs and hedges, re-using the arisings from the shrub as a water-retentive and weed suppressing mulch. The programme has proved successful – reduced maintenance requirements for both shrubs and hedges have enabled the reduced workforce to maintain, and exceed, the specification. The schedule is also being met, and it is expected the reduced maintenance requirements will allow the frequency of visits to be increased. Green waste recycling costs have been reduced to a minimal amount and the use of weedkillers on shrub beds has been reduced by mulching. As at April 2013, Babergh District Council has delivered its required budgetary savings without the need for any further cuts in 2013/2014.
In addition to contracted maintenance works our Contract Manager in Babergh, Graham Masters, has forged strong relationships with the local community and is active in supporting many community improvement initiatives. As part of the original tender, Babergh District Council required TLG idverde to provide a PQMS system capable of providing evidence of work achieved and monitoring of standards. Monitoring of standards was historically undertaken by the client’s Inspectors. As part of the cost-cutting programme, the Inspectors are no longer in place and TLG is self-monitoring contract standards. This partnership agreement represents a major cost-saving to the client. To ensure that standards are being met, as well as frequencies, the TLG idverde Works Programme produces inspections sheets for both random and targeted inspections. The Supervisors and Manager have been undertaking the inspections, but a training programme with Team Leaders has enabled them complete inspection sheets as they travel around their route. The inspections are forwarded to the client weekly and are incorporated into their contract monitoring statistics. The client monitors customer feedback from residents of Babergh District and forwards queries to TLG idverde.
Through use of the self-monitoring system TLG idverde identified a reduction in standards at Belle Vue Park, Sudbury below acceptable levels. The park has a diverse mix of ornamental beds, fine turf, amenity grass and shrubs, and extensive play zones for all ages. The park is extremely popular with members of the public, particularly during the summer, and it was felt that two park keepers on opposing shifts were not able to keep up with the demands. As this is a high profile site, it was determined that a change to the staffing arrangements was required in order to maintain a good impression to the public and client. TLG idverde have employed an extra park keeper. The contract standards achieved by Babergh District Council and TLG idverde through a very difficult period are as a result of improved communication and understanding of each others requirements.
The amenity grass mowing contract for Babergh District Council covers over 1,000,000 square metres of amenity grass, meadow grass areas with varying cutting frequencies and standards, and fine turf maintenance. The amenity grass route extends over an area of 595 square km, through 61 parishes and over 3300 individual plots of grass. The majority of the route is covered by two mowing teams, each with their own route and running from two depots. The key factors in achieving the cycle are identification of mowing machines to suit the environment, trained and knowledgeable staff, and a carefully planned route with daily targets. A third mowing team provided the grass cutting service for Sheltered Accommodation in 2012. As amenity grass mowing is a significant proportion of the grounds maintenance contract with Babergh, TLG idverde have invested in equipment and a new grass mowing team in 2013 to increase outputs and provide better resilience for such extreme weather conditions. Consultation with the client through the process has enabled the client to inform consumers of the methodology being employed, and the standard to be expected.
A key component of the annual contract review between Babergh District Council and TLG idverde is the formulation of a joint Service Improvement Plan. Review of performance over the previous year by both parties results in agreement of areas for continuous service improvement. One of the key Service Improvements identified in 2011 was the need to reduce the number of shrub beds in the District in order to improve maintenance. A significant number of shrub beds were no longer fit for purpose, having outgrown their original allotted space, being ‘the wrong shrub in the wrong site’ or of no aesthetic merit. The client instigated a programme of removal, replacing the shrub beds with amenity grass. The removal of shrub beds was also required to reduce the manpower required for shrub maintenance, necessitated by budgetary cuts. TLG idverde proposed that they would undertake a heavy prune of the remaining shrub beds at their own cost, in order to reduce the on-going maintenance requirements and improve their appearance. This work was over and above the specification but the on-going benefits would outweigh the initial cost of the operation.
As part of the on-going reduction to the contract value over the last three years, toilet facilities maintained for Babergh District Council by TLG idverde have been transferred to parish councils. TLG idverde has secured the maintenance contracts for a number of these facilities directly with the parish councils. Lavenham is a medieval village in Babergh District, and a noted tourist hotspot. Lavenham Parish Council granted TLG a maintenance contract for a toilet facility in 2012, and has renewed the contract in 2013, along with the adoption of a second facility. The parish council is keen to promote Lavenham as a tourist destination and have asked TLG idverde to assist them with improvements in grounds maintenance over and above the standard specification. In order to achieve a raised standard without increasing costs, the parish council has encouraged local community groups to provide labour and material for planting schemes. There have been a number of benefits from the scheme: The residents take pride in their neighbourhood, The residents have been introduced to the team maintaining their neighbourhood and a united objective has brought Babergh District Council, TLG, Lavenham Parish Council. The shrub/hedge reduction programme carried out by The Landscape Group idverde on behalf of Babergh District Council has been dramatic and Understandably the public have complained to the client. The methodology for the heavy prune was agreed between TLG idverde and the client before the operation commenced and The Babergh Customer Service team were briefed on the process so that they could inform the public about the reasons for the heavy prune, and how quickly the shrubs would recover. During the course of pruning a hedge adjacent to a property, it was revealed that the hedge was supporting the property fenceline, which was rotten. The owner of the property complained to the client that TLG idverde had caused their fence to collapse and would be seeking compensation. The Horticultural Officer and TLG idverde Contract Manager inspected the property and determined that the fence was rotten. The Horticultural Officer advised the householder that the contractor had performed the shrub reduction correctly and had not caused the damage to the fence. The householder was informed by the Horticultural Officer that no compensation would be forthcoming.