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Aug 29 2015

Harrow Council Now Buying Green Flag Awards

harrow_council_logoIt’s great news that Harrow has won five green flag awards for the borough. In fact, every park that was submitted for an award won one. Isn’t that a coincidence? But is there any value in the award?

It cost the council £200 per park to apply for an award. With the cheque went a bunch of park management plans (outdated by now) and – in the case of Roxeth Rec – a copy of the responses from a park user survey carried out in 2006 – some nine year ago. hardly valid for an award in 2015. In fact, one of the questions responded to in that survey was “Who would you ask for help if you were frightened in the park’ found 50% of users would ask for a park keeper – something pretty much non-existent these days.

So, if 100% of the parks submitted by the council for an award won one, is the award really of any value? According to the Green Flag Award website, “1582 parks, cemeteries, universities, shopping centres and community gardens in the UK have met the high standard needed to receive the Green Flag Award or the Green Flag Community Award.”

If we do some simple math, the awards scheme raises some £316,000 by issuing awards to those parks. We don’t know how many parks were unsuccessful, but would wager that if you got knocked back once, you probably wouldn’t apply again, so it’s in the scheme’s best interest to have a very high award rate. Add in the sponsorship from various companies – one, D S Smith has a PR article masquerading as a ‘news’ item on the site – and the award winners list looks like a “Who’s Who” of grounds maintenance companies: “Continental Landscapes Ltd working with Westminster City Council”, “London Borough of Hounslow/Carillion Integrated Services”, “Glendale Grounds Management Ltd” to name just a few.

This is, of course, not the first time the council has been buying it’s own awards: you can imagine the mutual back slapping that goes on at the MJ Awards, for example. An awards scheme for councils, by councils. All funded, of course, by the council tax payer. Rumour has it that there a team of council officers tucked away in the executive wing at the Civic Centre who have the full time job of applying for awards. And awards given out willy-nilly really have no value at all, other than to make the council look good. Of course, £1000 is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge amounts of money the council have wasted, but if pennies really do count, you’d have to expect the council to look a little harder at whether it’s a good idea to be spending money on awards, simply to make a Chief Executive’s CV look good.

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2 comments

  1. Elijah Traven

    We say ‘maths’ not ‘math’ in England. Please employ English spellings. This is England, not America.

    1. Someonewhocares

      Do you mean NORTH America Elijah?.. Talk about missing the point.. The council seem to be deliberately applying for ‘easy’ awards – in order to make them look better – so surely that is the key issue here? Good work exposing this, but can we now give them a Red Flag award instead for such blatant manipulation?

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