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Basildon's grass cutting firm under fire again
4:30pm Monday 16th September 2013 in News
A GRASS-CUTTING firm, often criticised for poor service, has failed to hit its targets again.
Questions have now been asked as to why Basildon Council continues to employ Coventry-based English Landscapes.
The firm was under-fire in 2010 for its poor performance, despite being hired for about £1.2million by the council.
That led to the council issuing the firm with 40 financial penalties in just six months because of the standard of gardening.
Now it has emerged the firm, has failed again to hit targets for the first three months of the year, leading an opposition councillor to call for the service to be brought back in-house.
Labour leader Nigel Smith, who represents Lee Chapel North, said: “English Landscapes has failed and I would have much preferred it if we could do our own grass cutting with our own staff to reinstall some pride into the borough.
“The reason we are paying a further £150,000 for a firm to measure grass and hedges is because of complications with English Landscapes’ contract.
“If councillors do something wrong, there is immediate accountability, but because this is a private company, there is no accountability for when things are done poorly.”
The firmwas handed a five-year contract in 2010 and in 2015 the contract will be put out to tender again.
Council officers grade jobs done by the firm as A, B, C, or D. It is expected to have 90 per cent of its grades ranked either A or B. But the company has never hit that in any of its cuts over a quarter of a year.
For the first three months of the financial year, the standard dipped to 78 per cent.
The company blamed the drop this year on a lack of staff – but has nowemployed eight more people.
The council argued that outsourcing grass cutting services saved £340,000 a year, with £1.4million saved by 2015.
Tony Ball, Tory leader of the council, said: “While English Landscapes has struggled to meet the target for standard achieved, it must be remembered that since the contract began, we have had two very wet springs and summers in 2011 and 2012, and a lot of snow at the start of this year, which is when the current figures are from.
“This has an impact on the ability to cut grass, and these problems would have been experienced if the service was still carried out in-house by the council, or not.”
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