Reflections from the frontline: Street Scene
In the latest of our series on reflections from some of our frontline staff, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, First Team visited Oakleigh Depot last Thursday to talk to colleagues from Street Scene about some of the changes they have had to adapt to.
Martin Goodwin, Greenspaces Operations Manager, said: “Last year was a challenge, and it really felt like we were stepping into the unknown. At the start, in March and April 2020, we lost around 50% of our workforce temporarily through illness or the need to self-isolate. This meant we had to reprioritise and focus on the things that really mattered – which for us were the play areas, litter and grass cutting.
“One of the most noticeable things has been the increase in footfall and corresponding amount of litter in parks, meaning we have had to increase the number of litter teams, extend their hours and introduce weekend teams.”
Martin added: “We’ve also had to change the way we work, and have run a series of ‘toolbox talks’ to make sure staff were updated on the latest in government guidance. This has meant enforcing social distancing and staff working in bubbles.”
Ian Spence, Assistant Director for Street Scene, said: “Our waste and recycling crews have had to deal with some criticism, especially during the early days of the first lockdown. We were following Public Health England guidelines, but some people didn’t want our crews coming near their properties due to fears of virus spread. This was, though, balanced out by others who praised their work and we received some lovely feedback from people who realised what a tough job we were doing week in, week out.”
He added: “Over the COVID period, we have developed the whole of Street Scene into a really resilient, flexible and frankly awesome team. The demands and requirements have constantly changed, but we have come together as a service to respond.”
Do you have any reflections of the last year of the pandemic that you want to share, as we begin to move out of lockdown restrictions this week? If you do, email us at email@example.com.
Street Scene staff upskill through new schemes
Street Scene has launched two employment and development schemes in the service this month: an apprenticeship scheme for frontline driver operatives and a Kick Start programme for administration roles in the service.
The apprenticeship for frontline driver operatives lasts for 13 months and includes online training, driving tuition, in-cab, shadowing and mentor training and an End Point Assessment. Those signed up will gain the skills, knowledge and abilities required to be a high-performing professional driver.
The service recently signed up the first group of 12 frontline operatives to the scheme, and a second group are already lined up to begin the programme later this year. This offer available to staff demonstrates the service’s commitment to continued staff development.
Mark Deacon, Recycling and Waste Operative, is signed up to the scheme and said: “I’m very happy to be taking part in the apprenticeship scheme that Barnet have offered to me. The opportunity to improve my English and Maths up to an NVQ level is amazing and to get the opportunity to get my LGV licence will be a huge benefit for my future.”
Mark’s manager, Operations Supervisor, Jamie Doult said: “It’s great to be given the opportunity to help these guys along to progress with their LGV and further their careers. I myself have progressed through the system going from a loader to LGV driver so I know it can be tough, but we’ve got some great guys on this scheme whose hard work has paid off and will continue into this course.”
A special thanks from Street Scene goes to Amanda Buchanan and Jamel Alleyne for their support to secure these places for our staff.
Over the next few weeks, the service will also be taking on four administration staff through the Government’s Kick Start Scheme. The scheme is designed to help young people who may be at risk of falling into long term unemployment, those who are on Universal Credit, school leavers or those who have had job offers withdrawn due to COVID-19.
The four places at Street Scene will be temporary opportunities to work in each of the frontline services and gain essential work experience and knowledge. The service will look to increase the number of places available through the Kick Start Scheme if the initial placements are a success.
Ian Spence, Assistant Director for Street Scene, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve had so many applicants for the apprentice scheme, which along with our support for the Kick Start programme, shows our continued commitment to the development of our staff and to enabling people to gain a ‘leg up’ into employment.”
Oakleigh Depot works successfully completed
The remedial works to stabilise Oakleigh Depot following significant ground movement in mid to late 2019 have now been completed successfully and on time.
Following the discovery of significant ground movement last year, Toureen contractors through Willmott Dixon undertook urgent repairs to the access roadway of Oakleigh Depot. The work was completed at the end of September and this week we have caught up with Site Transformation Officer Vikky Foulger to find out more.
Watch a short video of Vikky at the depot (pictured below) here as well as footage of the transformation.
The remedial works involved the installation of over 200 steel sheet piles of up to 19 metres in length, followed by the construction of a reinforced steel tie cantilever slab. Detailed works also took place around the Thames Water culvert which runs underneath the depot, involving the installation of concrete piles, capping and bridge beams.
All that can be seen from the extensive works now is a fresh layer of concrete and tarmac, leaving most visitors and staff none the wiser of the works which have taken place over the last ten months.
Speaking yesterday, Vikky said: “The whole Street Scene operation, Safety, Health and Wellbeing, Commercial and Estates have been involved in this project. It couldn’t have gone smoother, the contractors were so considerate and worked so well with us.
“I’m so happy with how it has turned out, it was exciting to see the fresh tarmac laid, fuelling station reinstalled and the depot returned to operation.”
Street Scene maintained full delivery of services to residents throughout the remedial works, including the resumption of the garden waste service following the extended annual winter pause to collections. The ever-changing landscape of the depot required a great deal of planning and teamwork to ensure that the depot works had no impact on our residents.
Reverting to the ‘new normal’ had been eagerly anticipated by many staff for a number of weeks, so there was a general excitement for the reopening of the roadway, with vehicles and pedestrians now entering through the ‘old way’. The service is extremely happy to have the roadway and fuelling station back in action. Well done to all involved.
Guest Weekly Message from Ian Spence, Assistant Director of Street Scene
2020 has been quite a year for Street Scene, with the depot remedial works, the introduction of subscribed Garden Waste collections, a restructure in Street Cleansing and last, but by no means least, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic!
Depot Remedial Works
Following the discovery of significant ground movement last year, Toureen (contractors employed by Willmott Dixon), undertook urgent repairs to the access roadway of Oakleigh Depot. This work was completed at the end of September. The remedial works involved the installation of over 200 steel sheet piles of up to 19 metres in length, followed by the construction of a reinforced steel tie cantilever slab.
All that can be seen from the extensive works now is a fresh layer of concrete and tarmac, leaving most visitors none the wiser of the works which have taken place over the last ten months. The ever-changing landscape of the depot required a great deal of planning and teamwork to ensure there was no impact on our residents. Street Scene maintained full delivery of services to residents throughout the works.
Subscribed Garden Waste collections
Following a decision at Environment Committee in January 2020, the service worked to put in place a chargeable service which went live in May 2020. We are pleased to say that Barnet now has – by far – the highest number of subscriptions for Garden Waste collection of any London Borough, with approximately 55% of residents signing up to the scheme. This has brought in an income of c£2.85 million, which will be reinvested in other services.
Street Cleansing restructure
Further to the Environment Committee approving our proposal for additional funding, aided by the income from subscriptions to the Garden Waste service, Street Cleansing has recently undertaken a restructure, with the aim of enhancing the quality of street cleansing across the borough. The borough will be split into 3 areas which broadly align with constituency boundaries and each will have a supervisor managing a dedicated team in their given area.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a huge number of challenges to the council, and Street Scene’s service delivery was no exception. Despite staff absence levels of around 42% in the early days of the pandemic, Street Scene have delivered an almost seamless service to our residents, with only a two-day suspension of weekly recycling collections and a one-month delay to the introduction of the subscribed Garden Waste service. Throughout the last few months, there has been a herculean effort to maintain our service delivery to residents and I could not be prouder of the efforts our fantastic team have made to ensure our residents receive the services they have come to expect.
Annual Staff Awards
And finally! Street Scene collected three awards on the night – Team of the Year, for our amazing work throughout the year for the residents of the borough and Employee of the Year, Vikky Foulger, who received the award after her outstanding work managing the Oakleigh Depot remedial works. CMT ‘Special Recognition’ awards were also announced for the Children’s Service for their collaborative work to move the service from an Inadequate to Good Ofsted rating, and to Street Scene apprentice Kimia Rastineh who excelled in her role and has been rewarded with a permanent job within the service.
These three awards are a great honour and richly deserved and I am immensely proud to be a member of such a fantastic team!
I also wanted to say that last night was another great night for part two of the Our Stars awards, especially because of the recognition of our COVID-19 Heroes – please click here where you can see all the nominees and winners. Another opportunity that showed us what Team Barnet can achieve, even in the most challenging year we’ve had yet.
Have a good weekend.
Well done to all Our Stars… Part I!
The first instalment of this year’s two-part Our Stars staff awards ceremony – and the first ever to be run virtually – took place last night and was attended through Microsoft Teams by more than 140 nominees, nominators and senior managers, with the winners of several of our regular categories now announced.
In past years the ceremony has been run as a gala night at Allianz Park in Mill Hill, but COVID-19 has this year made that an impossibility. However, there was still a jovial and celebratory mood, hundreds of congratulatory comments were posted in the Teams ‘chat’ and a range of videos showcasing all of our shortlisted nominees were played to great acclaim for all attendees to see.
On the night, we were very pleased to announce that our Employee of the Year is Vikky Foulger from Street Scene who received the award after her outstanding performance managing the Oakleigh Depot remedial works. Team of the Year was the Street Scene Service for their hard work to keep vital services going for residents throughout the pandemic and a range of other service challenges.
CMT ‘Special Recognition’ awards were also announced for the Children’s Service for their collaborative work to move the service from an Inadequate to Good Ofsted rating, and to Street Scene apprentice Kimia Rastineh who excelled in her role and has been rewarded with a permanent job within the service.
Love Parks? Love the Grounds Maintenance Team
Instead of the usual annual Love Parks campaign, Keep Britain Tidy have decided to run a summer-long national promotion aimed at reducing the amount of litter and other anti-social behaviour in parks. Barnet’s very own Grounds Maintenance Team share what their challenges are – just in time for peak summer season…
Martin Goodwin, Parks & Open Spaces Operations Manager speaks on behalf of his team.
The Government announced that outdoor play parks, outdoor gyms and playgrounds could re-open on July 4th. What preparations did you have to do to get these spaces ready to reopen? “Obviously, we have never come across a situation like COVID before, so as the pandemic cases increased, we prioritised our workload to three daily tasks – playgrounds, litter and grass-cutting. Our own workforce numbers were initially affected due to COVID-19, as we had members of the team who couldn’t work because they were self-isolating or had underlying health issues. Over time though, we’ve managed to get our staffing levels pretty much back to normal.
With the play areas, even when we chained them off that didn’t stop people jumping over fences, or even cutting through the chains, to get into them. But we didn’t have any serious incidents. We inspect every piece of equipment on a regular basis, making sure items like the safety surfaces (soft flooring found under play equipment and other parks apparatus) are fully repaired and safe for use. The Green Spaces Team are managing the cleaning side of things.”
What have been some of your biggest challenges in parks up until now?
“With the weather being nice (up until now) we’ve had to manage extremely high levels of litter during this period, so we’ve put extra resource on to manage the situation. I would certainly welcome the Keep Britain Tidy campaign if it encourages people to take their litter home with them!
“The supervisors, and the team worked through weekends alongside the Park Patrols team to make sure everything ran smoothly. As well as the whole Grounds Maintenance team, the supervisors, Ian Hudson, John Vickers and Martin Campbell did an amazing job. We didn’t get any residents coming up to us in the park to say anything about any issues we have about maintenance in the parks – although we did get a written compliment two weeks ago from a couple who regularly visit . They said they had been impressed by how pristine the grounds of their local park Sunny Hill were, so that is good to hear. Particularly during considering how busy we’ve been keeping parks litter-free at this time.”
The summer months are the busiest times for your team, but what other areas of maintenance does your team cover?
“People think Grounds Maintenance is just about covering the parks, but there are maintenance jobs to be done all year round. Once the current hedge-trimming season is over, before you know it we’re preparing for winter – winter is underrated as the works carried out during this time are key in terms of preparing for the following summer/growing season. This year cricket season was cancelled, but we’ll still have the tasks to do for football season, although this year we kept the posts up as we were focused on our priority tasks. We also have all the shrub beds, rose beds, winter sports, ornamental bedding, responsive maintenance and emergency works. As well as continuing to keep parks, outdoor gyms and play areas clean and safe, we have the maintenance of highways and some Barnet Homes sites. And although parks are not as busy with people in the colder months, the maintenance still needs to be done.”
How do you feel generally about how the Grounds Maintenance Team have managed during the COVID months?
“At first when we were having to deal with decreased staffing levels, I thought we would struggle, but by reducing the number of operatives and focusing on our priority tasks we’ve managed to catch up. Our team is in a better place than I thought we would be by now. Let’s see what the weather brings for the remainder of the summer – as that is usually a determining factor as to how busy parks will be over the school holidays.”