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Cllr Francis Timmons – Independent Voice

Grass Cutting


South Dublin County Council Crest


Monday, September 26, 2016


QUESTION: Councillor F. Timmons

To ask for a report into grass cutting this summer within SDCC area, how was it supervised and why was the standard so poor in some areas? is this work carried out by council employed staff or a contractor?


The Council’s grass cutting programme is carried out and supervised by the Council’s own staff.  The aim of the Council’s Public Realm Section is to achieve a frequency of weekly grass cutting on playing pitches in the County and fortnightly cutting on all other grass areas such as roadside margins, parks and open spaces. The weekly frequency on playing pitches is deemed to be necessary by both the Council and those clubs using the pitches to provide acceptable conditions for the playing of ball sports such as soccer, gaelic football and hurling.  The fortnightly frequency on other areas is deemed to be necessary if the areas in question are to be cut neatly and kept free from large quantities of grass cuttings, as the cutting operation does not involve the collection of grass cuttings.  The grass cutting operation is managed with the aid of the computerised scheduled management system, one of the aims of which is to ensure that the scheduling of the works occurs at the agreed frequencies as set out above.

The achievement of the agreed frequencies and the completion of the weekly and fortnightly schedules can be impacted from time to time by a number of factors such as weather, machinery, staff availability and the need to deal with other pressing work programmes.  While it is accepted that there has been some slippage in the grass cutting programme many areas have continued to be cut at the required frequency.  At the same time it appears to be the case that some areas have not been cut as determined by the schedule, and in some cases this has occurred on more than one occasion in the same area and this in turn has led to poor grass cutting quality in those areas.  Efforts have been made over the summer months to identify such areas and to address the matter.  It should be noted that additional grass cutting took place on weekends over the summer to help to address any issues arising where areas had been missed on the schedule.

Some staffing related difficulties have been experienced which have contributed to the problems in adhering to the grass schedule. Long term illness, retirements and staff promotion resulted in some tractor mower operators and ride-on mower operators being unavailable to the Public Realm Section in the current grass cutting season.  This temporary deficit is being addressed through the current recruitment campaign.  A number of additional staff have now been assigned to grass cutting, from mid July, and further staff will be reassigned to grass cutting from temporary supervisery posts on the Gateway job activation scheme as it winds down over the coming months.

The implementation of a spraying and strimming programme to run in conjunction with grass cutting is essential if an acceptable standard is to be achieved.  If long grass around obstacles such as poles and trees and in areas bounding open spaces is not treated and cut then the quality of finish will not be acceptable.  It is necessary to start this programme as early in the year as weather permits if good progress is to be made in the early part of the year.  Spraying of weeds and long grass cannot be carried out in wet conditions, or if rain is expected to occur later in the day.  Below is a table showing rainfall amounts in the period January to June for each of the years 2013 to 2016 as well as the total rainfall for the 6 month period.  It shows high rainfall in the month of April, relatively low rainfall in May, and exceptionally high rainfall in the month of June as well as a high cumulative total for the 6 month period in comparison with 2013 and 2015.  The high rainfall has resulted in both grass cutting and spraying being disrupted from time to time.  Also, the combination of high soil moisture and temperature levels has resulted in high levels of grass growth through the month of June.

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Total
2016 83.2 68.3 38.7 59.7 62.6 109.2 421.7
2015 63.4 30.5 56.4 56.2 96.4 17.4 320.3
2014 110.7 122 56.7 39.3 98.4 31.8 458.9
2013 69.5 45.2 63.3 47.5 52.8 43.2 321.5