Five extra posts to be created in Luton council's parks grounds maintenance team to tackle overgrown trees and shrubs

File photo of a person cutting a bush. Image by Alexa from PixabayFile photo of a person cutting a bush. Image by Alexa from Pixabay
File photo of a person cutting a bush. Image by Alexa from Pixabay
Trees and shrubbery obscuring pathways, road signs, street lights and even residents’ windows in Luton have prompted the council to approve five extra jobs to help resolve these issues.

An annual investment of nearly £200,000 is part of the borough council’s plans to increase the spending on public realm resources, according to a report to its administration and regulation committee.

The posts are within LBC’s parks grounds maintenance team and will be funded by “the growth investment for 2024/25 street scene improvements”, said the report.

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“These will be delivered through a cyclical programme of maintenance of the horticultural features within the public realm and the ability to respond to the high level of service requests related to the council’s highways tree stock.

Interim service manager operational street scene and bereavement services Steve Battlebury told the committee: “There’s been a reduction of around a third within grounds maintenance resources in Luton during the last decade.

“This has led to a reduction in services, resulting in reactionary horticulture maintenance only and the inability to respond to tree related works in a timely manner,” he explained.

“After the budget setting process for 2024/25, a £200,000 revenue investment into neighbourhood services was approved. This report is seeking to agree the extra positions which are needed to facilitate the improvements to the public realm.

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“The drop in maintenance visits and standards has resulted in high levels of service requests or complaints, which are often escalated to members and senior officers.

“These complaints relate increasingly to the standard maintenance of designated horticultural features, trees and general overgrown vegetation.

“The public realm now looks very different. The reduction of horticultural and tree maintenance to a service responding only on a risk-based approach has led to trees and shrub beds becoming overgrown.

“Large amounts of weeds are evident at all times of the year, with growth obscuring pathways, road signs, street lights, and residents’ windows, which many people find unacceptable.

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“Tree-related service requests are by far the largest category of complaint the service receive,” he said. “No matter how minor, all works must be arranged via the external arboricultural services contract because of the lack of resource to respond to such requests in-house.

“This creates a considerable time delay or even works not being done because budget prioritisation relates to high risk matters. The additional funding will enable the service to invest in extra staffing and equipment to improve service standards.

“That would be achieved by creating a dedicated rapid response and horticultural team to undertake cyclical maintenance of the public realm’s amenity shrub beds and to respond to minor tree works affecting residents.

“The first step is to seek formal approval to invest the £199,894 into these extra posts in parks grounds maintenance.”

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Asked about the longer-term budgetary impact, Mr Battlebury replied: “It’s a revenue growth bid, so that means it’s a year-on-year budget. The actual impact across the town will take quite a while.”

The committee agreed a recommendation to approve the five jobs in LBC’s parks grounds maintenance team.

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