THE contractors responsible for maintaining the borough’s common grounds were taken to task during two hours of scrutiny on Monday night.
Following a series of complaints over the last few months by residents in Goldsworth Park about poor maintenance of play areas, Vice Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Denzil Coulson, called for Serco to appear before the committee.
Faced with photographs of the disrepair in the Goldsworth Park play area next to the lake, representatives Tim Guile and Jason Kinsella admitted that the standard of work was unacceptable, but that Serco had made repairs to the soft play surfaces by the swings and the mini-roundabout last week.
Cllr Coulson said: “It is totally unacceptable that our play areas were not cleaned safely and inspected thoroughly to ensure they do not become trip hazards for little children.
“Gaping holes had appeared below a children’s swing and next to a mini-roundabout, posing a potential trip hazard, and loose grass was left to blow all over the play area.”
Serco have now committed to inspecting the play areas thoroughly to ensure their staff carry out their jobs properly.
Cllr Coulson added:“It also took eight weeks for overgrown vegetation to be cleared from communal areas in Bishops Wood.”
Serco have been in partnership with Woking Borough Council’s environmental services since 2003, and are contracted to provide a wide range of street-scene maintenance including road cleaning, upkeep of play areas, hedge trimming, dealing with fly-tipping incidents, and landscaping activities across the borough.
On the subject of tackling fly-tipping, Cllr Coulson suggested the council look at providing an annual free skip collection service in areas where residents cannot afford to get rid of large items at the recycling centres. This was agreed by the committee and the recommendation will be sent to the Executive for consideration.
Another issue tackled at the meeting was that of cleaning the town centre. Cllr Will Forster said: “It is very disappointing that the council and Serco say they still do not know how to clean the refurbished Jubilee Square with machinery without damaging it. At the moment they are having to clean it manually. They will not have enough manpower to clean both areas properly when Commercial Way is fully opened.”
But Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Saj Hussain, had a more positive response about Serco’s services.
He concluded: “There is not much to criticise Serco for. I take my hat off to them for admitting that there had been a failure.
“They gave a presentation and identified some areas in the borough known as ‘pavement areas’ or ‘no man’s land’.
“There are about 10 of these sites that have been unattended because Serco didn’t know who owned them.
“Now that they have been identified as the council’s, Serco will be maintaining them.
“Residents are sometimes quick to moan about problems in their ward but not enough is actually being reported to local councillors or the relevant services team.
“Serco are happy to address all eventualities.
“Their contract is such that whenever there is an emergency, they immediately deploy their staff into action without asking about costs.”