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PARKS AND OPEN SPACES IN CARMARTHENSHIRE GET 'GOOD' REPORT

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The parks and open spaces and ground maintenance services provided by Carmarthenshire CC are 'good with uncertain p...
The parks and open spaces and ground maintenance services provided by Carmarthenshire CC are 'good with uncertain prospects for improvement' according to an independent report published today by the Audit Commission in Wales. Parks and open spaces is responsible for municipal parks, playgrounds, sports pitches and water areas whilst the ground maintenance function carries out grounds maintenance at sites including the county's schools, country parks and highway verges.

The Audit Commission in Wales Inspection Team gave the services two stars (out of a possible three), because public satisfaction with them has been consistently high but the independent report says that there is room for improvement in particular in monitoring complaints and in considering the high price paid by the public for playing sport in the county's parks facilities.

Anne Delaney, acting director, Audit Commission Inspection Service, Wales, said;

'Carmarthenshire Council provides a range of good quality parks, open spaces and sports grounds which all play an important part in enhancing the quality of life of local communities. Our inspectors singled out the provision of children's playgrounds by the council for particular praise.

But there is still a great deal to be done to ensure that the public will continue to benefit from good facilities in the future. In particular the council needs to review its charging policy in light of the fact that the price for playing sport in council facilities is amongst the highest in Wales.'

The inspection report highlights a number of positive features:

* Public satisfaction with the Services has been consistently high over several years

* Sports services users are happy with the services provided

* A wide range of services are provided in parks and open spaces across the county

* Children's playground provision is above average for Wales

* A number of successful partnerships had been developed with both public and private organisations

However, inspectors also found areas that the council still needs to address, including:

* The price the public pay for playing sport in council facilities is amongst the highest in Wales

* There is public concern about the condition of buildings and changing rooms and the amount of dog fouling in parks

* Complaints monitoring is weak

* Grounds maintenance is a high cost service

Inspectors believe that the services have uncertain prospects for improvement because several key issues in the council's Action Plan to improve the services remain unresolved, including:

* Demonstrating the competitiveness of the grounds maintenance service

* A review of charging policy

* The harmonisation of working hours

Recommendations to help improve the service include:

* Providing sufficient resources to ensure that the unresolved improvement actions are dealt with as a matter of urgency

* Developing clear measures for the improvements planned and realistic timescales for implementation

* Developing a co-ordinated complaints system

* Redistributing the budget allocated to schools ground maintenance based on actual need

The independent inspection covered the council's best value review of two services (parks and open spaces and grounds maintenance) which were considered as one review because of the considerable overlap between them. The parks and open spaces service is part of the recreation and sports division of the education and community services department and is responsible for municipal parks, playgrounds, sports pitches, water areas and over 200 hectares of parks and recreational open space. This service has a budget of£2.1m in 2001/02.

The grounds maintenance service is carried out by the construction and environmental services department of the operations department and is responsible for grounds maintenance of the parks and open spaces as well as schools, housing sites, the millennium coastal park, country parks, highway verges, social services homes and industrial estates. This service had a budget of£1.27m in 2000/01.

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