The Groundsman

April 2014

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IOG/LF510/03/2014 YOU ASKED WE BUILT www.ransomesjacobsen.com Specifi cally designed for municipal and commercial contract applications, the Parkway 3 from Ransomes can tackle the toughest jobs. Its 33.5 hp Kubota ® diesel engine and choice of heavy duty Magna or Sport 200 cylinders gives it the performance to cut large grassed areas with ease. An automatic limited slip differential with on-demand four-wheel drive aids hill climbing and there's an optional TST stability system for safe operation. Parkway 3 GD/Pkwy3/04/2014 Finance options available! Contact your local dealer for details STATE OF THE INDUSTRY 19 the Groundsman April 2014 Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions exposed to the vagaries of our increasingly unpredictable climate. The market is mature; as one of the first services to be subject to compulsory competitive tendering in the 1990s, many contracts are on their sixth or seventh iteration. Efficiencies in the organisation of labour, machinery and vehicles have been taken and banked by the local authority in reduced contract price and (relative) higher standards of maintenance. The stone has been truly squeezed and there is little blood to be had there. As, to a large extent, the service is stable and the costs predicable, the traditional 'client side' has also been squeezed until the pips squeak. For example, more than 50 per cent of London boroughs have lost their head of parks and I know of some which, effectively, have no parks service, having gone down the route of a mega environmental/public realm department. The next step for them is 'generic' monitoring with highways and street cleaning inspectors running the GM contract and the parks. On the other hand, I know of some parks services which still have dozens of officers and multi-million pound budgets, with generous capital spend. They have time and resources to spend on things like introducing no smoking zones. These services may weather the storm as they clearly have political support for parks and the management capacity to innovate and increase income/reduce costs. Yet they would be wise to make hay while the sun shines and gather the hard evidence to support the local political currency of their service. If the greatest single cost is GM, surely we can save money by simply reducing maintenance regimes? This is a mirage and in practice no costs are reduced but are simply allocated differently. The 'best' parks services are those which retain adequate management capacity and strength of leadership to steer through, implement and oversee the changes necessary to achieve any of the above. Even they may find that the 15 per cent cut they 'absorbed' last year becomes a 20 per cent 'management challenge' this year. Another irony is that those park services which are most decimated by the cuts and are in most need of more cash actually lack the management capacity and the seat at the SMT table that might argue the case in favour of parks and against further cuts. Grounds maintenance Surely there must be something that can be done to bridge the gap? Let's examine the largest single cost to most park services – grounds maintenance (GM), which has always been a high volume, low margin business and one t

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