New knotweed service could help keep job cuts away
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.