New knotweed ser­vice could help keep job cuts away

South Wales Evening Post - - COMMUNITY - LIZ BRADFIELD post­[email protected]­di­

A JA­PANESE knotweed treat­ment ser­vice has been set up by Neath Port Tal­bot Coun­cil in an at­tempt to gen­er­ate more in­come for the lo­cal au­thor­ity and pro­tect staff from fur­ther cuts.

It is hoped the ser­vice which helps con­trol the spread of the plant will bring in around £40,000 over the com­ing year.

It is one of sev­eral ser­vices be­ing set up within the en­vi­ron­ment direc­torate.

At a re­cent coun­cil meeting on the draft bud­get pro­pos­als for 201920, of­fi­cers told coun­cil­lors the Ja­panese knotweed ser­vice started af­ter res­i­dents raised is­sues when buy­ing and sell­ing homes.

Head of plan­ning Nicola Pearce said: “Res­i­dents were hav­ing con­veyanc­ing prob­lems when try­ing to sell their prop­er­ties – the is­sue was be­ing picked up on sur­veys and stalling house sales.

“As it was an area of work we had of­fi­cers al­ready trained in de­liv­er­ing, we be­gan a trial a few months ago.

“It’s early days but we have had very pos­i­tive feed­back – prices are very com­pet­i­tive in com­par­i­son to the pri­vate sec­tor.

“We will shortly be ap­proach­ing estate agents in­form­ing them of the ser­vices we pro­vide so when they’re sell­ing prop­er­ties they can ad­vise po­ten­tial pur­chasers of the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress those is­sues.

“If there is a man­age­ment plan in place, quite of­ten that sat­is­fies the sur­veyor rather than slow­ing down sales.”

Ms Pearce said the en­vi­ron­ment direc­torate had been re­struc­tured sev­eral times in the past few years and was now “cut to the bone”.

She said: “We feel it can’t take any more staff cuts.

“We are try­ing to in­come gen­er­ate and pro­tect the staff we have al­ready got to ensure we still de­liver the statu­tory ser­vices we have to pro­vide.”

Over the past seven years the en­vi­ron­ment direc­torate’s bud­get has been cut by £18 mil­lion and seen more than 400 staff leave.

Be­tween 2013 and 2015 more than 200 staff left un­der the early re­tire­ment and vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy scheme.

The ser­vice will tackle Ja­panese knotweed.

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