Who's Managing Your Local Park? The Role of Outsourcing

Dale Potts
Parks and green spaces play a vital role in enhancing the quality of people's lives. However local authorities often struggle to deliver a well managed parks service within increasingly constrained public sector budgets.

Many authorities are exploring alternative management options for their green spaces. Some choose to contract out their management and maintenance, with growing interest in the inclusion of the higher level public facing roles, such as nature conservation and ranger services as well as the more straightforward grounds maintenance activities.

The resulting operational efficiencies enable authorities to concentrate on the strategic development of the service rather than day to day activities.

However these highly visible services are often complex, varied and fragmented. Stakeholders are similarly varied and there is often understandable public concern about the prospect of outsourcing.

Successful partnerships are vital to positive outsourcing outcomes. The outsourcing process can be used to formalise requirements for the provider to collaborate with, respond to and support local communities and the voluntary sector. Meeting with these community representatives, to actively involve them in consultations and decision-making, can turn public response into an asset.

Faithful+Gould provides local authorities with cost management, and contract and procurement expertise. Together with the Environmental Planning division of our parent company Atkins, we are currently supporting Wirral Council's procurement process.

Wirral hopes to achieve substantial cost savings over the next ten years by recruiting a single provider for parks, countryside, green estate and beach management services, including:

  • A full parks and countryside management service with visitor centres, educational and events programme, habitat management expertise, and direct interface with local communities including Friends groups
  • Grounds maintenance of over 300 parks and open spaces including the world renowned Birkenhead Park and 12 Green Flag Award sites
  • Grounds maintenance of 18 cemeteries and churchyards, golf course grounds and highway verges
  • Maintenance of children's play facilities
  • Arboriculture of 16,000 highway trees plus trees and woodland in parks, open spaces, cemeteries and churchyards
  • Management of nature conservation sites including nature reserves and 12 SSSIs
  • Management of approximately 21 miles of beaches and coastline, much of it of high wildlife value and designated as SAC, SPA, or Ramsar
  • Preparation, review, and updating of open space management plans and the submission of Green Flag Award applications
  • Cleaning and janitorial services for buildings within parks and open spaces
  • Asset and condition surveys of hard landscape infrastructure and development of subsequent improvement plans
  • Collaborative working with the voluntary sector including physical maintenance, and fundraising and grant application support.

We can expect to see more local authorities exploring this route in an effort to provide efficiencies and quality of service to their communities. Contact us to discuss how some of these ideas could be tailored to your situation.