Where the grass is greener (and shorter)
Wild verges growing up to knee height may be a big problem in most of the Vale – but a group of young people are ensuring there’s no pain in the grass for residents living in one small corner of the district.
That’s because the job of ensuring grass verges are cut regularly falls to them, rather than the cash-strapped county council, which has cut back on maintenance.
The Stewkley Enterprise Agency was set up in 2009 as a non-profit making social enterprise and provides services including grass cutting and strimming, minor hedge cutting, weed spraying and road sign cleaning.
It is the brainchild of villager David Lett, who said: “I was involved in setting up a youth club in Stewkley in 2009 and from there came the idea of the enterprise agency. I can’t remember where the idea came from but I approached somebody I attended the annual general meeting of Action for Youth.
“My original thinking with the scheme was to employ young people to cut the grass as a way of making money for the youth club. Action for Youth liked the idea and I got a meeting with the county council who were also very supportive.
“I also approached Stewkley Parish Council who were initially a bit reluctant but we got a contract in place and it has proved a great success. The scheme started in October 2012 and in the couple of years since then we have aimed to do nine or ten cuts to the grass a year, more than the council were able to do.”
David said there was not a huge amount of paperwork involved because a lot of the management is done electronically.
“All our employees are paid £7 an hour and they each do about 80 hours of work a year, most of which is spent cutting the grass. They are all responsible for completing their own workbooks and invoices.”
The success of the scheme has led to four other parishes - Swanbourne, Mursley, Drayton Parslow joining Stewkley in a cluster scheme.
All the villages will benefit from the same services provided by the social enterprise.
Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, cabinet member for transportation at Bucks County Council said: “Devolving services to the local community is a great opportunity for parishes and clusters of local communities.
“The way that Stewkley has set up their arrangement is a great example to other parishes who are considering joining in with the scheme.”