Councils cutting budgets, not grass verges

Overgrown verges in London Road, Kettering
Overgrown verges in London Road, Kettering

Councils admit a £285,000 cut to the county service means grass verges are trimmed less often – but blame the rain for the jungle on your doorstep.

Urban verges in Corby and Wellingborough have been cut less often since the county council slashed a third off the ‘vegetation maintenance’ budget last year and staff have been lost in Kettering and Wellingborough.

But borough councils, who trim verges in 30mph areas for the county council, claim it is rain, not cash, which has prevented workmen cutting over the past few weeks, resulting in the burgeoning hay fields on some estates.

A Corby Council spokesman said: “We are aware that there are issues with the length of grass in certain locations across the borough, which have arisen due to interruptions in the normal grass cutting cycle due to prolonged periods of rainfall over the past four to six weeks preventing equipment getting on to grassed areas to cut and the loss of three working days due to Bank Holidays in May and June.

“The speed of grass growth due to the wet and warm weather conditions we have been experiencing has also proved problematic, requiring some areas to be double cut to ensure a satisfactory cut, which has further slowed the cutting cycles.”

Wellingborough Council, which has cut one grounds maintenance job and stopped hiring agency staff to cover sickness and holidays, has trimmed verges three times this year, down from four in 2009.

Corby Council has trimmed verges five times this year, down from six in previous years.

Kettering Council, which has seen county council-funded grass cutting across the borough drop from five to two a year, reduced grass-cutting staff from four to three in 2010, the last complete year the full county council funding was available.

A spokesman said: “There has been significant reduction in service due to Northamptonshire County Council’s budget cuts in this area.

“There are fewer mowers allocated to verge maintenance, meaning that the number of cuts has been reduced; consequently grass verges are longer than in recent years.

“In addition, the functions of strimming around obstacles and blowing the grass back on to the verge will no longer be carried out.”

A Broughton resident, who asked not to be named, sparked the Telegraph investigation after complaining the council left cut grass on the village’s war memorial.

A consortium of East Northamptonshire Council, Raunds, Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough town councils and Stanwick Parish Council have maintained their level of eight cuts a year despite the funding cut, except Raunds, which has reduced it to seven.

Each have carried out four this year, except Raunds, which has carried out three.

The consortium also cuts verges for Thrapston, Denford, Woodford and Titchmarsh.

Rushden and Oundle town councils have separate arrangements.

Dozens of readers commented after the issue was raised on the Northants Telegraph Facebook page, complaining of uncut verges across the north of the county, including the Beanfield estate in Corby, Wellingborough Road, Finedon, and Glendon Road, Rothwell.

Some said they had resorted to cutting verges themselves.

A county council spokesman said: “Because of the financial challenges the county council faced it was decided that the focus of grass cutting would be for safety reasons rather than for appearance. As a result the amount of money given to district and borough councils in the county for vegetation maintenance – that is, for trimming grass, trees and hedges – was reduced to £565,000 in the financial year 2011-12, from £850,000 the previous year.

“The budget in 2012-13 has been maintained at £565,000.”