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Sunday, 21 September 2014

Dead and dying flowers ‘not good enough’

PRUDHOE’S flower beds have been so badly neglected by Northumberland County Council it is “almost fraud”, town councillors have claimed.

The remark was made at the latest meeting of Prudhoe Town Council’s planning, contract and works committee, after it was revealed the authority had planted only half of what it had promised in a contract.

A host of other problems were also uncovered, including dead or dying plants, overgrown weeds and dry soil.

Town councillors are now considering turning to a private contractor for the work next year and even withholding payment unless things improve.

“I have to say I was quite shocked,” said Coun. Eileen Burt.

“To me, this is almost fraud.

“I propose that we don’t pay if the council hasn't delivered.”

Coun. Mavis Harris agreed, saying: “It looks so shabby.

“If the council has only fulfilled a percentage of the contract, can we keep the money?”

Flower beds used to be the direct responsibility of the county council, but this changed when the authority devolved a host of services to town and parish councils.

This year, however, Prudhoe Town Council chose to contract out maintenance of spring and summer bedding to the larger authority at a cost of £17,759.

For the money, the county council agreed to take responsibility for flower beds at Prudhoe Fire Station, Waterworld, Eastwoods Road, Prudhoe Methodist Church, Prudhoe bus station, Beech Grove South and Riding Dene.

But on July 30, council administrator Sarah Eden and Coun. Jennifer McGee inspected the work and found:

l in most beds, approximately 50 per cent fewer plants were visible than the county council had outlined in its contract;

l all beds were dry, had a large number of visible weeds and were poorly edged;

l some plants were dead or dying and

l no dead-heading had been carried out in some places.

Coun. McGee said: “The county council is accountable for the work, but it hasn't been resourced staff-wise.

“We can’t blame the staff, but we’ve got to look at things from our own perspective.

“I’d far rather spend a bit more if we actually get the job done.”

Town mayor Coun. Tony Reid said: “Normally, if you go shopping, you might get two for the price of one.

“What we’re getting is the other way round – one for the price of two.

“It’s not good enough when we’re spending money on behalf of council tax payers.

“Most of the parishes are saying they will go to small private contractors.”

A report has been sent to the county council about the matter.

Members also agreed to request a meeting with senior officers.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “The council bid for and was awarded a contract to maintain flower beds in Prudhoe on behalf of the town council.

“We are happy to discuss any issues that the town council has directly with them.”

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