Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best parks partnership - commercial

Winner - Watford Borough Council/Veolia

Back in 2013, Watford Borough Council outsourced its frontline services — waste and recycling, street cleansing and parks and open spaces. The decision was not taken lightly but the council needed to make savings and efficiencies. The process was underpinned by two aims — to reduce costs and ensure services remained high-quality.

Veolia was appointed because it grasped the partnership ethos from the outset, through the procurement process, dialogue to appointment and delivery. The entire parks service was transferred to Veolia — allotments, sports pitches, grounds maintenance, tree management, parks development, cemetery operations and the park ranger service.

Client functions consisting of the former head of parks, a contract monitoring officer and a cemetery manager were retained in-house. The outcome has been very significant. Achievements of the partnership include:

-Green Flags up from three to eight, with another three entries submitted in 2017.
-Residents’ satisfaction rates up from 88 to 91%.
-High staff retention rate post TUPE transfer.
-Significant investment in training for all parks staff.
-Award-winning £5m investment in Watford’s parks in partnership with the council.
-Investment in allotments.
-Forums established, managed by the council and Veolia.
-New strategies in place for parks, sports facilities, cemeteries and allotments.
-Investment in up-to-date plant and equipment.
-Introduction of weekend burials for Watford’s growing Muslim community.
-Support for community organisations such as green gym and friends groups.

Watford is now nearly four years into the contract with Veolia. Costs and efficiencies have been achieved, yet the service has improved and there has been no requirement to issue a single penalty or default by the client. The partners have worked together strategically, ensuring section 106 contributions and investment have been targeted in the right place at the right time.

Since the beginning of the contract the emphasis has always been on partnership working. The dialogue is on a daily basis and the partnership working is on a permanent basis — and it works.

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