GREEN MAINTENANCE IN SALFORD CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS From the presentations. visits and deliberations received made and undertaken by the Scrutiny Commission, the Commission have gained insight to some of the technicalities in green maintenance services, an understanding of the complexities in delivering municipal services and the supporting budget parameters. The Commission have reached a series of conclusions about how service improvements and alterations might be gained and make the following recommendations on how those objectives might be achieved. It is hoped that the Council will accept the recommendations, in order that maintenance of the green spaces for recreation and enjoyment can be continuously improved for the benefit and needs of residents and visitors to the City. The recommendations fall into three main categories; Local Authority Action, Local Authority Partnerships, and Education and Promotion. LOCAL AUTHORITY ACTION Recommendation 1 That the issues raised during the course of this Commission are considered in the Best Value review process. It is believed that this Scrutiny Commission enquiry will make a positive contribution to the forthcoming process of formal Best Value review. This scrutiny process has CHALLENGED the way services are provided. COMPARED the services with private sector alternative and contributed to CONSULTATION, all key elements of the Best Value process. Findings and recommendations now need to be fed into the formal Best Value review process. Recommendation 2 Carry out a review of the arboriculture service to improve current productivity and flexibility and meet future needs. Recommendation 3 Carry out an audit of current practices as part of the compilation of a Green Directory. Improved flexibility in contractor services is necessary to better meet the needs of the community. The consultation process with Community Committees has highlighted that some improvements and variations in specifications and service standards are necessary to satisfy local needs and expectations. A particular issue that has been raised is tree pruning that presents problems of maintenance, ownership and long waiting time for some action. This is partly about funding for Arboriculturalists; there are 15 in the City whilst the demand for service is greater than capacity, but the service needs to review public opinion, priorities, charging practices and contractor partnerships. Recommendation 4 Progress the concept of a Green Budget, encompassing services that contribute to environmental maintenance and improvement, and encourage economies of scale. Recommendation 5. Improve co-ordination between council directorates to ensure that in scheme design sustainability of future maintenance and funding are considered. The directorates are involved in consultation on new landscape schemes at the sketch stage. The dialogue needs to be improved with landscape architects and the public involved more in the design process consultation. Pathways should be laid where the public actually walk -a wearing surface should ease maintenance. Recommendation 6. Investigate the provision and possible funding for improved lighting and security in parks and a park warden style service to control vandalism, litter and dog nuisance. Recommendation 7 Consider the introduction of a citywide bye law to control the nuisance and health hazard from dog fouling. People need to feel safe when they are out and about and enjoying the environment. Night crossing of parks is a danger, lighting of park pathways for those areas open after dusk will aid security and safety from tripping hazards. CCTV is a suggestion The consultations highlighted that lack of public toilets cause problems; toilet provisions have been a casualty of vandalism problems and budget cuts. The Commission can see merit in bringing back Park Wardens or, more cost effective, perhaps in the modern parks and playing fields, the concept of Park Rangers who have been successful in the Blackleach Country Park. This also would identify litter and vandalism and dog fouling problems at an earlier stage. Recommendation 8 Investigate ways to provide a green maintenance Support service for the elderly and disabled. Problems have been highlighted with overgrown hedges on boundaries. Enforcement may be possible but there are no facilities to help or assist people in need in these circumstances. How can we help people who are unable to maintain their garden areas? Welfare to Work schemes are a possibility; a tool-hire scheme is operating in the Irlam area of the City. The Council may be able to use schemes. such as New Deal to pilot initiatives that could provide help to special sections of the community in maintaining their gardens and boundaries. Recommendation 9 Enhance the 'gateways to the city' by environmental improvements plantings and maintenance. The Commission acknowledge the importance of improvements, to the area in which we live, the street scene, parks. and open spaces, and of aesthetics in fostering community spirit and confidence. There is also the importance of economic influence in uplifting areas to stop the drift away from the City of residents and businesses, and encouraging inward investment to boost the local economy. First impressions are important -set the City in a proper light and lift resident's spirits. Suggestions include improved maintenance and plantings along gateway corridors into the City and sustainable maintenance programmes for new developments. LOCAL AUTHORITY PARTNERSHIPS Recommendation 10. Improve co-ordination between street cleaning and green maintenance services. Loose grass cuttings present a hazard problem to some sections of the community -this was identified in a previous Scrutiny Commission Into a Cleaner Salford. GAP bungalow lawns for example should be box mown. There is a need to co-ordinate grass cutting, litter picking and street cleaning to improve visual impact as well as safety. Recommendation 11. Encourage outside partnerships to take full advantage of development opportunities and increased project funding through New Opportunities Fund, Heritage Lotterv Fund etc. Recommendation 12. Ensure that satisfactory links are made with parks and leisure land development and maintenance, to regeneration initiatives such as Single Regeneration Budget. Some improvement has been seen through the help of funding such as the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) and it is hoped that further improvement can be achieved through similar involvement across the city. Recommendation 13. Encourage more youth and community involvement to increase civic pride and enable more effective and sustainable activity. Involve more of the community in initiatives such as Britain in Bloom, Urban in Bloom, Tidy Business schemes. The Monton Residents action in environmental improvements was a successful model of community self help. Investigate the extension of Red Rose Orchard scheme. Recommendation 14. Investigate ways to make better use by e.g. composting, of green waste collected or created by outdoor services activity, reducing the reliance on land filling disposal. The council actively encourages households to recycle and compost, more can be done however with the material arising from contract activity. Recommendation 15. Extend the concept of 'Friends of the Parks " involving all different factions, to increase community involvement and ownership. The Friends of the Cemetery concept has been very successful and benefit might be gained perhaps by extending the concept into Friends of the Parks. Recommendation 16. Continue to work with Community Committees to ensure service flexibility and the best local use of devolved budgets in meeting local service needs. The consultation associated with this Commission has been a success and has resulted in some service developments already being implemented. A mechanism for ongoing consultation needs to be put in place to ensure continuous improvement, bearing in mind the necessity for advance business planning and limitations on contract variations. EDUCATION AND PROMOTION Recommendation 17. Improve educational awareness of littet; graffiti and the health hazard from dog dirt, to encourage responsible dog ownership and supplement enforcement action. Recommendation 18. Promote greater and responsible use of parks and green spaces as the vital green lungs for inner city life and an essential part of a healthy community. Parks need to be brought back into greater use in the community, to be visually pleasing. The public need to be caring and considerate for their environment and need to realise that vandalism to trees and fiowerbeds, and fly tipping, is down to the community. The environment is what people make it. Some dog owners are irresponsible as regards the dangers to children and sports players from dog dirt. We need to be looking at involving young people -perhaps forming committees to be involved with each area. Make increased use of the Salford Pride team who have experience in working with young people particularly, in promoting environmental awareness and community involvement schemes. Educational programmes on litter prevention would be helpful -the first Scrutiny Commission into. A Cleaner Salford' stressed this.