Parks advice team gets to work

Service aims to help public and private sector clients respond to budget cuts and skills losses.

Three former heads of parks and green spaces have launched what they promise will be a lower-cost advisory service to help public and private sector clients.

Russell McDonnell, Steve Smith and Ian Makins set up Mac Greenspace Solutions as a cost-effective response to the budget cuts and loss of skills in the green-space sector (HW, 21 October 2011).

"This is an advisory service, not a consultancy," said director McDonnell. "Local authorities do not have the funds to pay consultants £700 a day. We want to help councils and contractors get it right but at good value. Our fees will be realistic."

The team will work with public, private and voluntary sectors on green-space strategies, business plans, service reviews, asset management, Green Flag applications and mystery-shopping site assessments of grounds-upkeep teams, he added.

McDonnell is former head of parks and countryside at Knowsley Borough Council, Smith was head of parks at Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and Makins was head of parks and landscape at Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council.

McDonnell said the service wanted to pull in other former service chiefs for specialist areas such as ecology or procurement. These included Helen Tranter of Bracknell Forest Council.

Parks departments should be more commercially minded and draw up business plans so any profitability could be ploughed back into green spaces, McDonnell argued. Contractors had to sharpen up on areas such as community involvement and local needs.

INSIDE VIEW

"This period is, in effect, the second round of compulsory competitive tendering and you can't blame parks people for leaving. Most of them are punch drunk with cuts to budgets, salaries and pensions but some have 30 years' experience and the sector cannot afford to lose them."

Russell McDonnell, director, Mac Greenspace Solutions


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