'Framework' deal for Richmond

Single maintenance contract arrangement set to be challenged by Richmond council parks chief.

Many local authorities are trapped in outdated grounds-maintenance contracts that cost them too much in loss of specialist skills, a top parks manager has claimed.

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames head of parks David Allister said authorities often worked with one big contractor that tackled everything from tree work and sports field management to conservation and grounds maintenance.

"We want a more flexible approach that improves quality but does not necessarily cost more," he will tell the GreenSpace Leaders Conference in early May. "We want to break it down to bite-sized chunks to get smaller, specialist companies involved."

Allister said his department's 10-year all-encompassing grounds contract expires next March and it was looking at parcelling out work individually.

He could not give specific goals for savings because documents were being drawn up. But as a rough estimate, he reckoned that he could save around 10 per cent - £200,000 - on a £2m contract through efficiencies.

Allister said: "At the moment, parks departments employ half-a-dozen people to monitor, but using top-quality specialists to do the work and self-monitor would free them up."

He added: "As far as I know this is the first framework-type contract dedicated to grounds maintenance. Others have grounds elements in them but this is total and pioneering."

The Leaders Conference targets green-space managers and takes place in Leamington Spa on 2-3 May.

Leaders Conference - Topics for discussion

The Leaders Conference will include talks and master classes on new ways of working to make financial efficiencies, how to get your voice heard by decisionmakers and latest trends in green infrastructure.

Speakers at the event will include Camlin Lonsdale Landscape Architects director Xanthe Quayle, Nene Park Trust chief executive James McCulloch and Defra green infrastructure policy officer Jo Withers.

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