NOTTINGHAMSHIRE County Council is looking to revive the traditional role of a parish Lengthsman in a bid to give local communities more say in the upkeep of their surroundings.
A Lengthsman is a term used for a person in charge of a particular length of road and who maintains the weeds, grass and hedges that surround it. The term dates back to medieval times when he was required to “walk the length of the parish”, to ensure that the ditches and drains were clear.
In the 21st Century the role is much the same except the Lengthsman has modern tools and cleaning equipment and required to do any number of jobs
Letters have been sent to local councils asking for expressions of interest, with the aim of setting up a pilot scheme with up to six “clusters” made up of between four and 10 neighbouring parish and town councils who would share a Lengthsman.
The pilot could create up to four jobs for local people in their own communities, while a wider roll-out could create as many as 40.
The pilot scheme will be funded by the County Council at a cost of £54,000 and will run from June until next April, with evaluation taking place in December.
If the pilot is successful and Lengthsman schemes are rolled out across the county, they will be funded 50% by the County Council and 50% by the contracting parish/town councils.
Each parish or town council would benefit from a Lengthsman for around 135 hours a year. Their time would be spent carrying out scheduled County Council tasks such as grass cutting and seasonal work such as minor snow clearance.
In addition to these tasks, the local council will be free to determine any other local work which might need doing.
The scheme is expected to result in an increased frequency and improved standard of service to participating parish/town councils. Possible benefits include:
improved satisfaction levels amongst residents
increased frequency and improved standard of local service delivery
parishes being able to prioritise local activity to meet local need
recurring minor issues being dealt with more efficiently
The scheme has been rolled out elsewhere in the country by other county councils including Worcestershire, Lancashire and Surrey.
“A Lengthsman scheme will be of considerable benefit to local communities,” says Coun Martin Suthers, deputy leader of the County Council.
“It will ensure that local concerns are acted upon quickly, nipping minor problems in the bud before they become significant and costly issues, and with a quick response time for urgent local matters.
“It will also provide local employment opportunities and is part of the Government’s localism agenda whereby communities become more involved and take pride in their areas.
“It’s how the County Council delivered such services in the past so it’s not a new idea – more about trying to adapt it to modern circumstances.”