Four months ago we were all noticing that
the grass in the borough’s remaining parks
had been allowed to grow to ridiculous heights and apparently we were
experiencing the wrong sort of rain.
At last Thursday’s Places Scrutiny meeting there was a sort of inquest into it. The contractor who was appointed only last January had been invited to give its side of the story.
The company is ISS founded in Denmark in 1906 and now the third biggest privately owned company in Europe.
It has established depots at the Council’s premises in Footscray, Danson Park and Thames Road.
It was acknowledged that there were initially problems with the demotivated staff who had transferred to them from their previous employer. They had been trained and provided with new machinery but unfortunately the weather proved to be against them. Extra resources were brought in at a total cost in excess of £50,000 to overcome the various problems but it took until mid-August to get things back on track.
Since then, in addition to the contracted work, ISS has been helping the various voluntary groups who tend to the the borough’s open spaces.
Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End) had a question. Were the additional costs incurred this year sustainable? The company chairman thought they would not be but did not expect the problems of 2016 to be repeated every year.
Councillor June Slaughter (Conservative, Sidcup) said the complaints about the excessive grass growth were at “an unparalleled number this summer”. “What flexibility was built into the contract” she wanted to know. She did not get a straight answer from Ms. Ainge, the Council Officer, it’s not yet been worked out.
Councillor Gareth Bacon (Conservative, Longlands) said the frequency of grass cutting was the Council’s decision but was concerned about the quality of the cutting. Some bits were missed altogether and it “looked a bit shabby”. The cause was probably due to unfamiliarity with the new equipment but all staff had been trained on it as quickly as possible.
Councillor Danny Hackett (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) suggested the number of cuts was insufficient and contrasted Lesnes Abbey Park with the adjacent housing association land where grass cutting is much more frequent. Cabinet Member Peter Craske said the frequency was a budget decision and “there were things to learn from it”.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) thought the excessive amount of grass cuttings left on the surface were a problem. The company spokesman said it was looking at a mulching mower but storage and removal of grass cuttings is prohibitively expensive.