Dewsbury, Batley and Spen greenspaces set to have their grass trimmed less often amid workforce pressures

Workforce pressures mean Kirklees residents can expect to see the amount of times grass is cut at public spaces scythed back.
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The council’s Grounds Maintenance Team’s 70 full-time employees are responsible for the upkeep of the majority of greenspaces across the borough. However, mounting pressures mean that cutbacks may need to be made, resulting in Kirklees’ grass being cut less often.

This isn’t the first time the council has made cuts to its grounds maintenance department as £1.3m was axed from the budget in 2015. This saw grass cutting occur less frequently and grass verges allowed to grow wild.

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The maintenance team has said that expectations of their services are increasing and that their workload rose by the equivalent of 33 full-time employees between March and October. The impact of climate change was also said to add additional pressure, resulting in a longer growing season and therefore more required maintenance.

Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury.Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury.
Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury.

Another difficulty stems from recruitment with the team currently having a 20 per cent vacancy rate and having a hard time attracting new workers. This is made more problematic as the current workforce is said to be ageing.

Budget pressures are also being felt which have led to delays in purchasing new vehicles and machinery.

The issues are outlined in a council report and will be discussed by Kirklees Council’s Economy and Neighbourhood’s Scrutiny Panel next week.

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The maintenance team receives no central funding from the council but instead relies on contracts with other departments within the council to generate its income. These include Kirklees Homes and Neighbourhoods, Highways, Academy Schools, and Kirklees Active Leisure.

Wilton Park, Batley.Wilton Park, Batley.
Wilton Park, Batley.

The report says: “A gap has opened up between agreed standards and the expected standards since they were last agreed in 2015. At this time all sites were given a category of Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Natural as part of a service budget reduction of £1.3m.

“These standards were agreed but as time has gone on people expect or demand a higher service level so there has been creep and our resources do not allow for this increased service delivery and teams are now stretched beyond capacity.

“Alongside this we are being asked to maintain new areas of land or maintain areas in a new way for example wildflower verges. These requests and additions are added to our portfolio with no additional revenue to maintain them and regardless of our capacity or tools available.”

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When previous cuts were made to the service in 2015, the council categorised Kirklees’ park and recreation grounds into four categories – gold, silver, bronze, or natural. Each category determined how often the grass would be trimmed.

Gold sites included the borough’s main parks and crematorium such as Crow Nest Park, Wilton Park, Green Park and Dewsbury Crematorium. These received 20 grass cuts annually. The silver category covered recreation grounds with facilities like those at Chickenley Recreation Ground and Mirfield Showground and would get 14 cuts a year. Bronze sites such as highway verges and greenways received six cuts annually, and small sites or ‘natural zones’ were left to grow freely.

Council officers have proposed an “interim measure” to tackle the current difficulties. This would mean the combining of silver and bronze categories into one with grass being cut at these sites every three to four weeks.