Parks service merger advice offered

Former park heads set out to support councils investigating shared services to save on budgets.

Three well-known former parks heads are to help councils that they say are struggling to integrate parks and street scene operations.

Former Oldham parks head Steve Smith, ex-Sefton head Ian Makin and ex-Knowsley head Russell McDonnell are setting up the green space advisory service.

Between them, they have more than 70 years of local government experience in landscape, grounds maintenance and parks and countryside management.

Smith said: "This is an opportunity for supporting councils. We are not going to be rip-off consultants on silly money."

He said while working as a Green Flag judge this year, he saw standards slipping because so many senior staff had left parks departments as councils looked to make cuts amounting to a quarter of their budgets.

"You can see in maintenance that some councils are struggling because all these guys have gone out of the door very quickly. They may need assistance with post-merger evaluation," he explained.

McDonnell added that local authorities lacked technical expertise when they merged departments because of recent cuts.

The trio said they wanted to provide value-for-money advice and to shy away from the word "consultancy". "There is a big void to fill," said McDonnell.

Integration increase

APSE local authority street cleansing services survey 2011:

Seventy-four per cent of councils said they were part of an integrated street scene service - an increase from 66 per cent in 2009. Of those, 89 per cent jointly managed and delivered grounds maintenance alongside street cleansing.


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