The question was asked, “Has the Leader of the Council received the letter from the Friends of Manor Road, representing the Friends of Parks groups and In Bloom groups, regarding the removal of the Park Ranger posts and the buying-in of plants at Manor Road, and will he give an assurance that the Friends Groups will be consulted at every stage when major changes are proposed to Parks and Countryside Services?
Cllr Fox gave the following reply:
To the first part, the question posed by Cllr Murphy on behalf of the 'Friends of Manor Road' I note that this request was dispatched by e-mail on the 21st February to the Chief Executive.
So members are clear, the letter referred to is a 'broadcast' letter, received from the Friends of Manor Road and signed by their Chair, Mrs Dorothy Russell on behalf of twenty four Friends or Bloom Groups and their Horticultural advisor. My understanding is it was sent to all councillors and the Chief Executive. This letter was dated Thursday, 10th February, recorded as arriving in the Town Hall on Friday, 11th February and received by me, following the weekend, on Monday, 14th February.
I forwarded a reply to the signatory of the letter, Dorothy Russell on Wednesday, 16th February.
I am aware that the Chief Executive also replied to the letter.
I have since had a telephone conversation with Dorothy Russell the signatory of the original letter (22/2/2011) as I was concerned from the question that no reply had been received. At that time she confirmed that she had in fact received both letters.
Their letter requested the Council make them a consultee once the market testing results are known. I have confirmed in my letter that should the 'status quo' be recommended to change then they would be consulted. It is most important they are.
It is however difficult to quantify the more general question put to today. What is a major change? That is a debate or consultation event in itself.
I hope you are satisfied when I say, that as respected, engaged and active stakeholders your views are important to the Council and how, where and when consultation is required to support, help develop or challenge what otherwise would be radical changes in and to the service you will be consulted.
To the letter dated the 18th February.
To avoid any ambiguity, no decisions are made; we are no where near that stage.
I will ensure that the Procurement Manager seeks comments from the Friends groups upon what should be in the scope of any contract to be issued.
To the second paragraph, there is no secrecy. There is simply nothing to tell anyone yet. We are market testing the outsourcing of buying in plants. Until decisions are made to that outsourcing then the structure of Parks and Gardens will remain much the same save for Mr Burnett having moved to his new post of Community Environmental Officer.
The role requirement for this post removes him from the day to day management of the Parks and Gardens but not from the requirement for his knowledge and expertise to be called upon.
The Council is restructuring how the service is managed. But most important, the expert qualifications, management and qualified people available to the Council remains the same.
To the third paragraph, the same level of service is just that. How it is delivered is what may change.
In the week commencing 7th March the ICM will be receiving a report to approve the short list.
An invitation to tender will be sent out to the approved bidders which will include a requirement to attend the Town Hall or nearby to highlight their service provision and provide opportunity for interested groups and members to have input into the tender process.
To conclude, even now we buy in a significant proportion of the shrubs and trees we use, and the tender will include the continuing need to buy these. All this is really about is considering extending the scope of what we buy from outside the Council.