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Agenda item

Future Cobtree Manor Park Management and Operation Proposal


The Leisure Manager introduced his report setting out options for the future management and operation of Cobtree Manor Park.  It was noted that:


·  Until 2017, the Council’s Parks and Leisure team managed all Council owned parks and open spaces as well as Cobtree Manor Park on behalf of the Cobtree Manor Estate Charity and the grounds maintenance service was provided by the Council’s in-house Grounds Maintenance team.  However, when the Parks and Leisure team was split into two, the operation of the Cobtree Manor Park and the Charity’s other assets remained with the Leisure team and the Parks team joined Environmental Services.


·  The Leisure Manager had identified limitations regarding the current operational arrangements for Cobtree Manor Park.  Three staff were currently employed at the Park, the Cobtree Manager and two Rangers, and their work was restricted by the equipment available to them.  A significant proportion of the mechanical work required was, therefore, carried out by the Council’s in-house Grounds Maintenance team at an additional cost, or was not undertaken at all.  This had an impact on the productivity of the Cobtree team and the value for money offered to the Charity.


·  All amenity and bridleway grass cutting works were currently undertaken by the Council’s in-house Grounds Maintenance team at an annual cost of £21,600.  The team also carried out one-off work including play area repairs and regularly provided additional staff to cover peak times.  Therefore, the actual cost to the Charity ranged from £30k to over £50k in addition to the salary costs of the Cobtree Manager and Rangers.  It was also important to note that this currently excluded shrub-bed maintenance costs as this work had not been undertaken in recent years.  The work would need to be carried out, but it was unlikely that it could be carried out by the Park’s staff.  This work was estimated to cost £17,000 per year.


·  The Head of Environment and Public Realm who was responsible for the Council’s parks and open spaces had also identified opportunities within the Parks and Grounds Maintenance teams to reduce duplication, increase resilience and create an improved future-focused team with greater responsibility for enhancing biodiversity and improving customer experience.


·  In this context, four options had been identified for the onward management and operation of Cobtree Manor Park as follows:


1.  Continue as is

2.  Fully in-house with Cobtree dedicated staff

3.  Fully contracted out

4.  New combined management structure within Parks


·  Cost comparisons had been prepared and the current model included a “to be confirmed” cost for the storage and disposal of green waste as the Park did not have a green waste solution at present.


·  The option to create a new combined management structure within Parks was considered to offer the Charity the most resilient and flexible service which also provided better value for money than the current arrangements.  However, the changes would be more complex than the other options and there would be a full staff consultation and more detailed financial modelling before a final proposal was brought back to the Committee.  Informal discussions had already taken place with the staff involved.


In response to questions, the Leisure Manager explained that:


·  There was insufficient space to compost green waste on site.


·  If option 4 was adopted, it would be possible to assimilate all members of staff in the new structure.


RESOLVED:  That agreement be given to the principle of a combined Parks management structure to enable a full staff consultation to be undertaken.


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