Custodian Awards boost parks' and gardens' recognition and staff morale, winners report

Winning a Custodian Award gives parks and grounds enhanced recognition with politicians and residents alike boosting staff morale and providing much-needed benchmarking, previous winners have said.

Custodian Awards 2016 Best Grounds Care Team Leighton-Linslade Town Council
Custodian Awards 2016 Best Grounds Care Team Leighton-Linslade Town Council

Head of grounds and environmental services at Leighton-Linslade Town Council, winner of Best Grounds Care Team in the Custodian Awards 2016, Ian Haynes said:

"The Custodian Award is a massive boost to the residents and the councillors who support us. The actual staff on the ground have been walking around with pumped up chests that we’re bucking the national trend and are investing in our assets. We honestly do believe that our parks and open spaces are assets and not liabilities.

"It’s an industry and sector recognised benchmark. One thing that councils, especially town and parish councils, struggle with is how they are perceived to be working in comparison with district and borough councils, who can be involved in organisations such as APSE.

"It’s almost like a breath of fresh air and quite reassuring that what we’re doing is correct and is recognised by professionals and peers."

Haynes said the award had "massively helped" in its successful application to the Local Council Award Scheme, in which it won the Gold Award.

"There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there. It’s really reassuring, especially for a town council that provides an in-house service, that we’re heading in the right direction," he said.

One really positive impact of winning the award was it resulted in feedback from judges, Hayes said, since it was quite easy in local government "to be in your own fishbowl".

"This gives you the confidence to deliver on the next project."

He added: "It’s nice to see that there’s something that isn’t prohibitively expensive to enter. The application process is really quite simple and straightforward. It is based on quantifiable achievable outcomes that people have been doing over 12 months."

Winner of the Best Parks Restoration/Development Project for its Watford Parks Improvement Programme 2013-15 was Watford Borough Council, in association with Ground Control and Southern Green.

Head of parks Paul Rabbitts said his department also experienced a positive effect locally with local press coverage and a mention in the council’s quarterly magazine About Watford.

"The elected mayor was chuffed to bits, as was the MP. What it also meant was that we were so pleased to get it that this year we’re going for more and also because you’ve got more categories. It raises that bar and gives you that further challenge. It’s like getting Green Flags, you get a few but it isn’t enough -you want more and more.

"We all like to be recognised and if you don’t go for it you can’t win it."

Rabbits said that in Watford parks were a priority for the council but that it was always possible that other priorities could get precedence, especially during straightened times.

"We’re very good at doing what we do but we don’t tend to market ourselves and go in for awards and get wider recognition. It’s good to be recognised for what I think is good work.

"Now we’re award-winning, we’re up there, it shows that we’re continually improving during difficult times. It shows we’re not giving up."

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The Horticulture Week Custodian Awards are open to all professionals responsible for the management and development of parks, gardens and other green spaces. Find out more about how and why you should enter the 2019 Custodian Awards.

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Find out more about the outstanding parks, gardens and arboricultural projects and teams that became our Custodian Award 2018 winners.