Redbridge Council steps in to save jobs but could still face legal action

Wes Streeting, deputy leader of the Redbridge Labour Group and cabinet member for health wellbeing

Wes Streeting, deputy leader of the Redbridge Labour Group and cabinet member for health wellbeing - Credit: Archant

Staff threatened with redundancy have been told their jobs are safe following a row between Redbridge Council and its grounds maintenance contractors over £600,000 of overdue payments.

Two weeks ago the Recorder reported Ground Control, which was contracted to maintain more than 700 council-owned sites, had been forced to send 31 staff home on full pay and warned they may lose their jobs if the stand-off was not resolved.

But now Redbridge Council has agreed to secure the jobs and terminate its contract with the Billericay-based company, which also maintains grounds at the Tower of London and Greenwich Maritime museum.

Cllr Wes Streeting, deputy leader and cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “I’m really pleased we’ve been able to find a resolution, which means protecting jobs and making sure residents are getting a fair deal.”

The conflict emerged after Ground Control revealed it had not been paid for work carried out since February, claiming the council owed it more than £600,000 for work up until the end of October.

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But Redbridge Council said the work had not been up to scratch.

Cllr Streeting said: “We have a responsibility to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure value for money on all of our contracts.”

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He said the council had received complaints about the standard of maintenance, and claimed it had tried to work with Ground Control to improve services.

But Ground Control managing director Dr Marcus Watson said the company had recorded “more than 40 attempts” to meet with the council to resolve the issue – and said it still planned to take the authority to court.

“The council’s failure to pay any of its bills in that period is the only cause for jobs being at risk,” he said.

“We simply cannot continue to work without payment for such a prolonged period.

“We are pleased that Redbridge, finally, shares our view that jobs should be protected and we will gladly work with the council to transfer them as smoothly as possible.”

He claimed many sites were in “a dreadful state” when handed over to Ground Control at the start of the contract in January this year, and said many areas had no maps to work from.

He added: “In spite of these difficulties, we are pleased that our work has been recognised, with Redbridge parks winning four Green Flag awards this year.”

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