Grass several feet high

Are some people just happy to let the grass grow under their feet? - Jim Parker

Jim Parker

It is one of my pet hates – uncut grass. It’s bad enough when it is your own home and you keep coming with excuses not mow the lawn and the grass grows and grows until it looks a right mess. In fact – and perhaps it’s me – but it makes the whole house feel untidy.

Well I cut the grass the other night and all is well. Except it’s not. I still get that untidy feeling as I look around the streets and grass verges close to home and further afield and I see a mess.

Verges and little pockets of land have grass standing several feet high.

Talk about a no-Mo-town!

Of course, there will be many of us pointing the finger of blame at Torbay Council and their partners SWISCo.  But the crux of the problem is they can’t find to fill jobs and are desperately short on man or womanpower!

The council says in a news statement: “Some Torbay residents may have noticed that in some areas grass has not been cut as frequently as they may anticipate. Torbay Council and SWISCo wanted to clarify the reasons for this, and outline what the next steps are.”

They say SWISCo, a Torbay Council company, is responsible for cutting 1.4 million square metres of grass on highway verges and in parks and open spaces across the Bay, but in common with a number of industries both locally and nationally, SWISCo is currently experiencing a high level of vacancies that they have been unable to fill.

Cllr Mike Morey, cabinet Member for infrastructure, environment and Culture, said: “Recently there have been some delays to the grass cutting across Torbay. Although there are a number of reasons for this, the major factor is that SWISCo is carrying a high number of vacancies that they are struggling to recruit to – this is a situation that many employers are also facing and there could be a range of factors affecting this, from the recovery from the pandemic to Brexit. Staff sickness is also having an effect, and of course this is the time of year when the grass grows fastest.

“There are currently 10 vacancies within the whole Parks team and despite our very best efforts to recruit to them as with many other roles there has not been any candidates forthcoming.

“This has created a situation where the work of four grass cutting teams is being carried out by only two so we are having to operate at 50 per cent capacity. Many of the staff within the Parks team do not hold driving licences and therefore opportunities to redeploy existing staff to focus on grass cutting is limited as the operation of a mower requires a licensee.”

He added: “SWISCo on behalf of Torbay Council is aiming to find a balance between meeting residents and communities’ expectations of their local landscape, safety, available resource and opportunities to increase environmental benefits. By changing the way we manage our grass verges we can significantly improve biodiversity, help reduce carbon emissions and costs, and bring benefits for wildlife such as bees and butterflies for us and future generations.

“As public perception of the local environment changes SWISCo receive as many enquiries and requests for grass to be left long and ‘rewilded’ as we do for areas to be cut on a regular basis and kept short. There are now many areas across Torbay where the cutting regime is tailored to finding a balance between these often conflicting aspirations and in many cases what is considered by the public as overlooked is in fact deliberate in line with our planned cutting regime.

“It is anticipated that as growth rates drop over the next few weeks in line with yearly trends and as much additional resource as possible is made available the grass cutting schedule will be back on track within three weeks.”

In addition to the current staff shortages, the council says over recent weeks the parks team have been focussing on preparing for the English Riviera Airshow, Music in the Meadows and other activities over the Queen’s Jubilee weekend, including changing out of winter/summer bedding and making seafront parks and open spaces as attractive as possible for residents and visitors.

This has had an obvious impact on the grass cutting around the Bay, but now this work is complete, resources are being focused to catch-up over the next two to three weeks, they say.

The council says that in some areas residents wish to have the verge outside or near their home cut more frequently like their own gardens. In such cases the council is ‘encouraging and supporting residents to take their own responsibility for such areas, providing and supporting that they are working safely and responsibly.

So why aren’t people applying for jobs? Many other business sectors are suffering the same staff shortages, especially our tourism and hospitality industry. Without doubt Brexit and a reduction in foreign workers has had a major impact.

Is it the stigma of working in an apparent low paid job with no career prospects? Not the case on both fronts in reality.

SWISCo are looking for Parks and Grounds operatives across the board. They undertake all aspects of garden, grounds and parks maintenance from ornamental prestigious parks, sports pitch maintenance to generic grass cutting.

In return, they offer decent working conditions, a contributory pension scheme and further training.

By the way, the salary ranges from: £18,887 to  £24,920 per annum depending on experience and qualifications.

You can apply for jobs via https://www.torbay.gov.uk/council/jobs/applying-for-a-job/

Agency work temporary roles with SWISCo can also be applied for via Big Ant Agency.

Or is the issue here is that some people are simply happy not to work and let the grass grow under their feet!!??

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