The leader of Preston City Council has dismissed claims made by the Liberal Democrat group in the city regarding grass cutting.Advertisement
Ingol councillor Jason Jeffrey has written to the leaders of both the city council and the county council saying the grass cutting problems are due to ‘poor planning and a failure of leadership;.
Cllr Jeffrey said: “At the moment the message from the political leaders of both Councils seems to be that this is all about austerity and cuts, but actually the problems are about poor planning and leadership.”
“The County Council used to pay the City Council to cut the grass and earlier this year demanded that they do the same work for 20% less money. The City Council couldn’t afford to do this work for 20% less, so passed the contract back to Lancashire, and that’s where the problems started. Lancashire hadn’t planned for this to happen, and have to date still been unable to put a robust alternative in place.
“Indeed it appears that the County Council isn’t even aware of the situation on the ground claiming some areas are about to get their third cut, when the reality is that many areas have yet to see a mower.”
“Councils are facing unprecedented challenges which are impacting the services that they can provide, but it’s too easy to blame cuts for poor performance. This is a service with budget, funded from all of our Council Tax payments, and we need to see it delivered. Study after study shows that the appearance of an area has massive impacts on community involvement, community pride and even low level crime and disorder.”
His statement to cllr Peter Rankin, leader of the city council, drew a lengthy response.
Read more: Grass verges cut back around Preston
He said: “I don’t quite understand what the criticism of the City Council is in Councillor Jeffrey’s statement.
“As he acknowledges, Preston City Council couldn’t accept the County Council’s grass-cutting contract that was being offered at 20% less than the year before. We could have topped it up it from our own budget to ensure a better job but didn’t do that simply because we couldn’t afford to do it with the budgetary challenges we currently face.
“It’s not my job to answer for the County Council but they have had to make colossal cuts and the effects of those have been seen in the media this weekend. I don’t blame them for offering us a contract we just couldn’t accept for the money available. However the result was that they then had to let the contract at very late notice to another contractor.
“Looking at the grass-cutting in a little detail, the County’s Highways Management Plan states that urban areas will receive 5 cuts and rural areas will receive 2 flail cuts.
“In the urban areas, the first two cuts were undertaken by us early in the season, and the contractor who was only appointed by the County Council in mid-July started with the third cut in August. It clearly has been a case of catch-up but the third cut was supposed to have been completed by last Friday (26th August). The fourth cut commences this week and the fifth and final cut soon after the fourth is complete.
“Any parts of the city that residents think have been missed should be reported to their County Councillor or directly to the Council Council by phone or on their website.
“Councillor Jeffrey seems to accept there have been government imposed cuts to our budgets; actually over 40% in 6 years, causing huge difficulties to councils, especially those in Lancashire. However I do think it’s disingenuous for local politicians like him to refuse to make the connection between these quite massive cuts that his own party (the Lib Dems) implemented while in government over several years and the effect on the ground, (in this case literally).
“He obviously is still refusing to take responsibility for that and finds it easier to blame the local councils, even while acknowledging “budgetary challenges”.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “We worked closely with Preston City Council to develop the work schedules for the new contractor to ensure they specified the areas where the grass needs to be cut.
“We have since identified a small handful of places which were not picked up during this exercise and have now added them to the schedules. Tag Lane was one of these locations, and these verges will be cut shortly. We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.”How is the grass where you live? Do you think it is an issue? Let us know in the comments below