Although I have been a councillor for around 20 years, I am constantly surprised by the sheer scale of what the council actually does.
Look at just part of our public services team for example – the Green Space and Street Scene Service .
Together, these services manage and maintain the borough’s public realm - from town centres to parks and open spaces - and undertake education, enforcement, and regulatory activity to keep residents, businesses, and visitors safe.
They are responsible for our open spaces and parks – that includes 26 parks, 52 recreation grounds, 159 other open spaces and gardens, 89 sports pitches and 18 bowling greens.
And also 111 children’s play areas, 10 wheeled sports areas, 35 sites with multi use games areas, seven kick about areas, and 19 outdoor gyms – not to mention 34 allotment sites.
But that's just one part, This service is also responsible for cleaning over 2,200km of roads/pavements and emptying 1,500 street and park litter bins. They are the team we turn to for removing fly tipping, graffiti, and dog fouling.
The less immediately visible but equally important parts of the teams work include:-
Providing biodiversity & conservation advice internally and externally
Land management of 84 sites, including 10 Local Nature Reserves, totally around 750 hectares (that's equivalent to about 1,000 football pitches)
Forestry - inspection and necessary works to over 40,000 park, amenity, and street trees
Support to over 240 partner/community organisations, including ‘in-bloom’, school, and youth groups
As well as providing Environmental Education, organising countryside guided walks, running the Jerusalem Farm outdoor centre and camp site, and overseeing the work of around 70 countryside volunteers
Then there is the highways responsibilities. From filling potholes, asphalt patching and repairing pavements, to undertaking street masonry repairs, dealing with drainage issues, and walling work, as well as co-ordinating the vital winter operations such as gritting and snow clearing,
I could fill several columns more, as this is only part of what this team does. I have not gone into detail about street lighting, highway defects, gully cleaning – the list seems endless.
And this is just one team within Public Services. Did you know that our Community Protection Team deals with almost 8,000 licenses, ranging from private hire operators to scrap metal and house to house collections, as well as issuing temporary event notices, inspecting almost 2,500 registered food premises, and monitoring more than 60 CCTV cameras 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
And this is just one part of the council!
The range of council activities that we depend on but take for granted is huge. And all this continues to be delivered despite the massive cuts in funding forced on us by central Government since 2010. With so many services, of course things sometimes go wrong – but when the arm chair critics are quick to snipe, it's worth remembering the sheer scale of what our local council actually does on our behalf.