Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Winner - Leighton-Linslade Town Council

Councillors have invested a considerable amount of resources in improving parks and facilities in Leighton-Linslade, Bedfordshire, with contributions from town and parish councils. An ongoing programme will see all the area's parks brought up to standard.

An in-house team looks after 60ha of public open space including 23 play areas and a skate park.

It cares for the grounds in two working cemeteries, controls weeds including invasives such as Japanese knotweed, picks litter, clears snow and grits footpaths, maintains two allotment sites and supports the employment of two horticultural apprentices.

Each year its mowers travel 1,844km - almost four times the length of the Grand Union Canal. The grounds team has also invested in a £250,000 state of the art "splash 'n' play" and has a 100-tonne sand beach. Yet the department delivers its services for just £42.44 per household a year, compared to a national average of £50.38 (Association for Public Service Excellence).

Services are also being expanded to include paying clients as part of a drive to commercialise the council and bring in £100,000-plus, reducing the overall cost of its service to the community.

As well as ongoing maintenance of high-quality parks, open spaces, cemeteries and allotments, a huge amount of work has been undertaken by the grounds team throughout 2015-16 to improve the parks offer on a limited budget.

At Parson's Close Recreation Ground, in the very heart of the town, recent innovations include introducing Bigbelly bins, which minimise labour costs, a complete skatepark revamp, toilet upgrades and a gym installation. The grounds and environmental services team won its first Green Flag last year and is aiming for three this year.

"We go all out to offer an exceptional service within our budget and I'm genuinely pleased for our in-house team that these figures demonstrate excellent value for tax payers' money," says the council's head of grounds and environmental services Ian Haynes. "We work hard to deliver the best services. It's great to see that members have invested in our in-house delivery with new equipment and updating our facilities, and this shows we are still offering great value for money whilst continuously improving."

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