Questions raised over £349m bills to control pavement weeds across Kirklees

Kirklees Council will pay more than a quarter of a million pounds to control weeds on pavements across the borough.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 2:24 pm
Pete Fawcett, from Cleckheaton, retired from the council in 2010

The £258,000 two-year contract for the work was awarded to a company in the Holme Valley.

And, late last year, the council awarded another contract for £91,000 to a South Yorkshire landscaper to carry out hedge-trimming in its parks and green spaces for a three-month period.

Now a former gardener for the authority has questioned why such high sums are being paid to subcontractors when council staff are capable of doing the work in-house.

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Pete Fawcett, from Cleckheaton, retired from the council in 2010. He has been fiercely critical of the authority’s decision to cut its parks staff and to shut its horticulture nursery in Huddersfield.

He said rumours are now circulating that gardening work in the district’s cemeteries is also to be sub-contracted.

He said: “All this work used to be done by us [in the parks team].

“The council say they can do for other people something that they themselves are contracting out.

“It doesn’t add up.”

Mr Fawcett gave a cautious welcome to reports that huge 40ft-high vertical planters are to be installed on New Street in Huddersfield.

The three pieces of street art costing £210,000 will be made by Essex-based Circling the Square.

They have been conceived to create a “green street” to run through New Street and continue through Huddersfield town centre.

The council says the vertical nature of the planters will allow plants “to grow up and over the top to create tree-like structures”.

Mr Fawcett said: “If there are plants growing up then and it adds greenery [to the town centre] then I would support it.

“With proper greenery and flowering plants it could look really good.

“But they need to keep up to it. Just sticking them in [New Street] and then leaving them is no good.”

Kirklees Council closed its state-of-the-art nurseries on Leeds Road in Bradley in 2016.

It brought to an end 150 years of municipal plant growing. As well as growing thousands of bedding plants the team provided flower tubs, displays and hanging baskets for royal visits, pop concerts, the borough’s town halls and mayoral events including the annual mayor-making ceremony.

The authority said plants and flowers grown by its gardeners could be sourced more cheaply elsewhere.

Annual savings were said to be £169,000.

That figure was disputed by parks staff who claimed an independent audit estimated that outsourcing would save just £25,000.