The Audit Commission inspection team gave the service two stars* because it provides a good range of outdoor leisure and sport facilities for local people and works well in partnership with government agencies, voluntary organisations, the private sector and the community to achieve improvements.
'The council's improvement plan has clear and challenging targets and includes major initiatives which should result in benefits for local people. Councillors are committed to improving the green spaces in Bolton, and the council has a track record of managing change and delivering improvements. However, clear proposals need to be developed to ensure the service can match the standards of the top performing authorities.'
The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:
- The council's aims for the whole of its greenspace management service are clear and challenging and the service's activities contribute to the council's overall objectives.
- The service has achieved Investors in People accreditation and Britain in Bloom awards.
- The grounds maintenance partnership - a partnership between the council and Brophy's, a private sector contractor - is an innovative approach to grounds maintenance service delivery.
- The council is involved in a number of initiatives to address customer concerns over security, vandalism, and safety.
However, inspectors also found weaknesses:
- The council does not know how many residents use the facilities and available information shows that significant sectors of the population do not use Bolton's green spaces. There is little consultation with non-users to find out how the service could be improved to benefit more local people.
- Customer satisfaction varies considerably between services and facilities,
the quality of the facilities varies, and customers believe standards are declining.
To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:
- Devise effective methods for making Bolton's residents aware of the greenspace facilities and activities - particularly among those groups who don't currently use them.
- Consult with local people who don't use the facilities, or make little use of them, to find out how the service can be improved to better meet their needs.
- Produce clear proposals to help the service match the performance of the top 25 per cent councils across the country.
The greenspace management service covers urban and country parks, grounds maintenance, children's outdoor play areas, trees and woodlands maintenance, outdoor sports facilities, allotments, school grounds maintenance and community landscapes. The service has a budget for 2001/02 of£5.46m, and employs 218 full time equivalent staff. 60 per cent of the budget is spent on landscape maintenance which is carried out by 68 per cent of the staff.
A press release from the local authority follows.
Donald Grime, Bolton MBC executive member for sirect
services, which includes the award-winning greenspace management service
said he was delighted with the Audit Commission's comments and the two star
'Overall I am very happy with the report which highlights many of our
strengths, particularly our innovative partnership arrangement, which aims
to deliver quality services throughout the borough.
'There are areas which we need to examine, such as consultation and customer
satisfaction and the marketing of our facilities. These issues will be
addressed in the very near future.
'We are nearing completion of an exercise to bring together many of the
services which affect everyone, and will be concentrating our efforts to
improving the services we give to the people of the borough'.