Councillor says grass verges in Southend are left to grow over staffing costs

Southend City Council has been accused of letting grass verges grow out of hand after “failing to employ enough summer staff”.

Martin Terry, Independent councillor for Thorpe ward, said Conservatives – who once accused the previous Labour-led administration of neglecting verges – is now doing the same thing to balance its budget.

Southend Council confirmed that four members of the council’s parks service – responsible for maintaining grass verges – took voluntary redundancy earlier this year.

Cllr Terry said: “It’s shocking what’s going on. They simply aren’t being cut. It transpires because of the budget cuts the Conservatives made, they are not employing any seasonal staff so basically there is no one to cut the grass. They are down to a handful of people.

“Councillors are receiving large mail bags, particularly in Thorpe ward about the state of the grass verges. It comes out of the highways budget and they simply don’t have the staff to do this. In years gone by we had more than 20 staff in total but many of those were seasonal.”

Cllr Terry said the staff shortages were “a real cause for concern”.

He added: “People do need to think about how the council deploys its resources. I’ve noticed the grass is being cut on the seafront so we’re cutting the grass for day trippers and businesses but all the residential areas are being ignored.

“The bottom of Queensway is unbelievably overgrown. People are complaining the can’t pick up after their dogs and they are worried about fleas and ticks.”

Two members of the council’s parks team were injured in a crash in Royal Artillery Way last month, which has also impacted the team.

Meg Davidson, councillor responsible for the environment, said: “As many residents will have experienced in their own gardens, the changeable weather and periods of rain and sun has seen high growth along verges, but our grass cutting programme has been underway since early April and will continue until October.

“The awful accident involving our parks teams has also had an impact, with two of our staff injured and two of our vehicles affected. We have now recruited to cover these positions in the short-term.”

Cllr Davidson added: “It was also agreed as part of the challenging budget setting process for 2024/25 that there would be a review of the parks service, with four members of staff taking voluntary redundancy as part of this.

“However, despite all this, it is important to be clear that grass verges are still being cut approximately once every 30 days. Areas around trees, lampposts, fence lines, and railings are strimmed every third time we cut the grass.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter

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