Richard’s at the cutting edge of village maintenance work

A COUNTY councillor took matters into his own hands to deal with an area of grass that had been left to grow knee-high.

The patch of land outside a set of Isos bungalows in Whalton was left untouched after it was mistakenly left off a map of places to cut when the contract was awarded to another organisation.

Ponteland North member Richard Dodd decided that enough was enough and he gave it a first cut of the year himself, with support from Ponteland East councillor Eileen Armstrong and village residents.

Isos used to contract its grounds maintenance works, which include grass cutting, to Northumberland County Council, but a few months ago it changed to another supplier, Vale Contract Services.

Since then it has trying to catch up with a backlog that was created in the gap between the transfer, coupled with heavy rain in April, with people in a number of former council housing locations across the county reporting concerns about the height of the grass outside their properties.

Coun Dodd said: “It’s an absolutely ridiculous situation. Here we are on the cusp of June and the grass outside the bungalows was still left untouched. It was over a foot high before it was cut.

“I didn’t do it for publicity, I saw how dreadful the area had become and knew that I had to take action because if it was left much longer it would have fallen over.

“Residents have been ringing every day about it, but were being ignored. Other areas have still to be cut and someone from the Hexham area raised the issue at a recent meeting.

“I have heard a range of excuses, from the weather to Bank Holidays getting in the way, but Isos shouldn’t be defending the indefensible.

“Next to where I cut the grass in Whalton is land which the county council is responsible for and this has already had five cuts this year.”

An Isos spokesman said it has been working closely with Vale to arrange for extra staff and machinery to be assigned to Northumberland, and the staff are working weekends to get the contract up-to-date.

“We are sorry that the residents of Whalton have experienced delays to the usual grass cutting schedule around their homes,” he said.

“The village was mistakenly omitted from our contract with Vale Contract Services and we apologise for this oversight.

“We have responded promptly in the vast majority of cases where we have received complaints from members of the public or county councillors. When Coun Eileen Armstrong contacted us about Whalton, we made arrangements for Vale to attend the village on Saturday, May 26.

“We understand Coun Richard Dodd acted to cut the grass himself on Thursday, May 24, rather than allow Vale staff to complete the work. We would urge him not to do this in future, not least because he would not be covered by insurance to work on our property.

“There is now a rapid response team in place to deal with any areas like Whalton which have suffered excessive delays. We fully appreciate the frustrations of the past few weeks, but we can assure residents that we are now recovering the situation. We remain confident that Vale will deliver an excellent service once they can overcome these early setbacks.”