Babergh’s cabinet has approved plans which will see the management of public open spaces, playgrounds, and litter bins move in-house, in line with neighbouring Mid Suffolk.

Public realm services in Babergh will be directly managed by the council from November 2021. The change will follow the end of the council’s current contract with Idverde in October 2021.

Bringing the service in-house, as is already the case in Mid Suffolk, will allow for consistent service standards and increased flexibility. It will also enable the council, jointly with Mid Suffolk, to manage land more holistically to increase biodiversity.

Planting wildflower meadows to replace strict grass cutting regimes where suitable, and creating wildlife corridors are all options currently being explored by the councils’ biodiversity task force sub-group.

The in-house option was recommended by Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee earlier this month, with cross-party support. The committee also praised the work of Mid Suffolk’s existing in-house team, highlighting their efficient service.

The public realm offer includes:

  • Countryside
  • Amenity areas, parks, and open spaces
  • Street scene
  • A14, highways verges work for Suffolk County Council
  • Playgrounds
  • Public conveniences

Babergh District Council worked with experts from the East of England Local Government Association to look at current service levels, and ensure all options were fully explored.

Cllr Elisabeth Malvisi, cabinet member for environment at Babergh District Council, said:

“Making sure Babergh is a place people are proud to call home is really important. Our public realm service plays a vital role in making sure our streets are clean, tidy and safe.

“These services are also at the very heart of achieving our climate change and biodiversity ambitions over coming months.

“By bringing public realm in-house, alongside Mid Suffolk, we can continue to improve our service. With these changes I hope our customers will see the benefits and enjoy a more consistent service.”

Now work will start ahead of the transition next year, to ensure all changes are planned and implemented effectively, in order to minimise unnecessary disruption.

All changes will be achieved within Babergh’s existing budget.

Cllr Jessica Fleming, cabinet member for environment at Mid Suffolk District Council, said:

“We know we already have a strong and efficient public realm service here at Mid Suffolk. But, by working alongside Babergh, we can continue to further improve the experience for our customers.

“The role of our public realm service in achieving our climate and biodiversity ambitions cannot be underestimated. I hope by working closely together we can create bright and healthy futures for all our residents.”

It is hoped once the new service is fully in place, both councils can look at ways to work more closely with parish councils to deliver their own public realm services.