Cemeteries & Green Spaces
reality and fantasy
My contention is that because of LBH’s inadequate procedures for checking the performance of its grounds maintenance contractors, Hillingdon Council Tax Payers are paying for work that is not being carried out. This conclusion is based on a comparison of the actual work carried out with that specified in the Ruislip Northwood contact.
Following an article exposing these shortcomings in the Gazette in April 2008 the Council has refused to provide further copies of their inspection reports and minutes of liaison meetings with their contractor. This is in breach the Freedom Of Information Act and complaints have been lodged with the Information Commissioner.
For several years I had been complaining to the Council about the inadequate grass cutting, weeding, grave maintenance and litter clearance in Q section of Northwood Cemetery which I visit regularly. This is one of the two sections where new burials are made.
Until April 2007 LBH the cemetery and other LBH green spaces in Ruislip and Northwood were maintained by Sodexho under a contract with the Council. In April 2007 the contact was awarded to Enterprise plc.
In January 2007 I obtained a copy of the contract and copies the Grounds Maintenance Inspection Register which logged inspection visits made to various green spaces by a Council Officer. The references to Northwood Cemetery were cursory and showed no evidence that actual performance was ever checked against contract. Click documents to see a sample page.
The contractor is supposed to:
(1) Tend the headstone borders 7 times a year,
(2) Clear all headstone borders of weeds on each maintenance visit and cultivated to a depth of 75mm,
(3) Trim the grass edges abutting headstone borders 5 times a year,
(4) Edge the same borders with using a half moon edging tool normally in November,
(5) Remove arisings (cuttings) from adjacent paths after grass cutting within 2 hours of mowing.
This level maintenance had never remotely been achieved. I did not recall ever seeing any evidence of cultivation between the headstones. Again, I could not recall ever seeing the headstone border edges neatly trimmed. The contractor’s long term operative told me he had never used an edging tool on the headstone borders.
On 25/03/07 I wrote to the Council and expressed my concerns about the management of the contact. On 02/04/07 they said, referring to the new contract with Enterprise plc, that “Monitoring of the new contract will be taking a different form from the previous contract to ensure that it is clear to the contractor that performance, in all aspects of the operation they will be carrying out for us must be maintained at a good quality at all times.”
In spite of this encouraging rhetoric in the subsequent 11 months the contractor never once cultivated, edged or trimmed the headstone borders, The paths were never cleared of arisings from grass cutting .
I met with Cllr Corthorne and Nick Hurd MP on 18/01/08 to review this and other environmental issues.
In February 2008 I obtained copies of monthly Site Inspection Records for September 2007 through to January 2008. This is a new A4 checklist specific to the cemetery. I also obtained minutes of the Monthly Contract Review Meetings attended by LBH and Enterprise plc personnel.
The dysfunctional nature of the LBH’s green spaces management practices can be seen by comparing what these documents recorded with the actual conditions on the ground. Please click reality and the fantasy.
I asked Sandra Jenkins (LBH Cabinet Member - Environment) (30/03/08) what steps the Council would be taking to remedy these long standing management failings. I received a reply from a Green Spaces (03/04/08) saying in reference to Enterprise plc. “We have made it clear that we are expecting a number of significant improvements in standards from the 1st April 2008. Clearly the new monitoring regime referred to by LBH on 02/04/07 (see above) had not worked.
On April 2nd 2008 the Ruislip & Northwood Gazette took up the issues I had raised. Click here to see the article
Miraculously a week after the article appeared the Council’s contractors leapt into action. The normal work force of two overworked operatives were suddenly supplemented by four others. See photo. On approaching one the regular operatives he told me the he had been instructed not to speak to me.
I e-mailed Cllr Sandra Jenkins (17/04/08) asking her what steps the Council were now going to take to ensure that the contractors perform to the standards specified in the contract. I said that I expected to see inspection checklists drawn up with items relating to each contractual task on a month by month basis. Not having received a satisfactory response I asked her (30/04/08) to be specific and say what was going to be different this year. I also asked her (06/04/08) if she had reviewed the evidence presented on this web site with Officers and for her personal opinion of the management of the the Sodexho / Enterprise contract in the context of Northwood Cemetery. No answer has been forthcoming and Ms Jenkins has made it clear that she does not want to hear further from me.
To find out what was going on in June I asked LBH to supply copies of Site Inspection Reports, Contract Review meeting Minutes and correspondence with Enterprise covering Northwood Cemetery from February 2008. LBH have chosen not to supply this information and I have consequently submitted complaints to the Information Commissioner, the body that oversees compliance with the Freedom Of Information Act. They have asked the Council to carry out internals reviews and to explain their decision. Please refer to the Freedom Of Information section of this web site for details under Ref 5.
It would appear that instead of engaging in a dialogue to try and resolve these issues the Council have decided to put up the shutters and hope the problem will go away. It will not.