Council looks to resume control of playgrounds, graffiti removal and emptying bins

Emptying litter bins is among public realm services which could be brought back in house at Babergh

Emptying litter bins is among public realm services which could be brought back in house at Babergh in 2021. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Graffiti removal, managing playgrounds and maintaining car parks among other council services could change next year as councillors decide whether to bring services back under their own roof.

It has been recommended Babergh District Council change from outsourcing key public realm services and instead adopt an ‘in house’ model akin to those already delivered at Mid Suffolk District Council.

It emerged at a joint scrutiny committee of the councils last week in which it was recognised that the contract for outsourcing at Babergh was coming up for review, and delivering more services in house could make the service more efficient.

It relates to ‘public realm’ services which include: emptying litter bins; maintaining council grounds; warden services; maintaining play areas and parks; litter picking; emptying dog bins and litter bins; dealing with fly-tipping; highways verges work on behalf of the county council; public toilet management and maintaining car parks.

It would not affect contracts on waste collections and leisure facility management.

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The scrutiny committee has recommended that Babergh adopts an ‘in house’ model, which must be approved by the council’s cabinet, and if approved would likely take effect from November 2021 when the current contract for outsourcing ends.

Mid Suffolk councillor Keith Scarff said: “If it is in-house it’s responsive and flexible as a service.

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“A contract has to tie up every loose end and if it is not in the contract you don’t get it done by the contractor, and that is fair enough.”

Babergh councillor Mary McLaren added: “Public realm in our area of the world does not have a high profile and I think we would welcome that.”

Council officers said a single in-house operation for both councils would help increase service standards, provide a more efficient response and help improve biodiversity with projects such as re-wilding areas.

The committee report confirmed that the changes could be made within the existing budget.

However, Babergh councillor Margaret Maybury has urged any future changes to be managed effectively, after issues with the formation of Babergh Mid Suffolk Building Services (BMBS) – a council property maintenance firm which endured teething problems such as increased spend during its formation.

The two councils have not ruled out forming a trading company later down the line to deliver services, but a move to having both councils in-house first would be more beneficial in the short and medium term.

The cabinets at both councils must now decide which model they want to adopt in future.

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