Taxpayer bill for cricket weedkiller woe hits £15k

Cricket match in progress on an artificial wicket at Baileys Court, Bradley Stoke.

The cost to local taxpayers of the unexplained incident in which weedkiller was applied to the town’s Baileys Court cricket square has risen to £15k after Councillors agreed to reduce the rent charged to Bradley Stoke Cricket Club for next season.

Damage to the cricket square first came to light in March, when staff noticed the grass was starting to die off, and experts brought in by the Council later confirmed that a “readily available” weedkiller was to blame.

A meeting of the Council’s Finance Committee in April concluded that “on balance of probability, the original damage to the cricket wickets was contractor error”.

Classic Landscapes, the company previously responsible for looking after the cricket square, had its contract for that work terminated, although it continues to do other work for the Council.

The Council spent £5,350 on emergency remedial works and instigated a new maintenance regime that necessitated the purchase of a heavy sit-on roller and a specialised mower at a one-off cost of £8,270.

The new maintenance programme includes a budget of £2,600 to be paid to the cricket club for assisting the new contractor, Avon Sports Ground Maintenance. Payments totalling £1,456 have so far been made to the club, for 182 hours of labour.

With all of this season’s games having to be played on an artificial wicket, the cricket club recently wrote to the Council asking for a reduction in its lease charge and this month’s meeting of the Finance Committee agreed to reduce the rent by one-third for the 2012/2013 season – representing a loss of income of £1,520 for the Council.

The Council has billed Classic Landscapes for the emergency remedial work carried out earlier this year but payment has so far not been forthcoming. It is considering making a claim on its ‘contract dispute’ cover but has yet to hear back from its insurers.

Hazardous chemicals on the cricket square at Baileys Court..

Photo 1: Match in progress on the artificial wicket at Baileys Court.

Photo 2: Signs warn of hazardous chemicals on the cricket square (archive image).

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  1. Maybe the next edition of the council’s rag could be used to a) explain why the contractor at fault has not been pursued for their debt and b) which BSTC councillor agreed to retain (and continue paying) this company for on-going work.

    It’s so easy to spend our tax money isn’t it…..

  2. Seriously, why should tax payers pick up the tab for something that we do not get full community benefit from. Surely making the surrounding environment for all would be money better spent.

  3. I would like to try and put a positive note on the negativity that is being shown about Bradley Stoke Cricket Club, with regard to the reduction in rent, maintenance costs, and our position in the local community.

    By providing this insight I hope to deter people from thinking that BSCC is a drain on the local taxpayer and offers nothing to the community. It may be that many people do not know the origins of the club and the facilities so I would like to clarify this first. BSCC was formed in 1991 and the original site was designated as a bowls green and cricket ground at that time by North Avon District Council as a community project. BSCC was selected, from four local clubs who applied, to be the Club to use the facilities. BSCC has played there now for over 21 years, and has been a tenant and rent payer for that period. In that time over 220 players have played local cricket for the Club, with many of these having come through our youth section which is still thriving. We started with just 14 players and now have four teams playing on a Saturday, two on a Sunday and also operate a mid week league which has six local organisations/businesses playing on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in a round robin competition. This season both our 1st and 2nd X1 teams, will be promoted to the Senior Division of the Bristol & District cricket league, which can only enhance the reputation of our Town.

    Bradley Stoke, like most other towns, has sporting organisations which add substance to the community and are available as either spectator sports or for individuals to participate in. They provide an interest, a feel good factor, and a service to any resident who wishes to become involved. BSCC is no different and we welcome all residents of our Town to join us either as a player, a spectator, or just to enjoy a drink from the bar as a social activity. Many friendships have been formed directly as a result of people joining our Club.

    We obtain revenue from various sources including membership fees, match fees and sponsorship. Apart from keeping something in reserve in case of emergency, we plough everything back into the club for the benefit of our members and the community. In the last two seasons we have re-invested over £10,000 to provide a score box with electronic numbers, befitting our league status, better outdoor nets, and crucially four more grass pitches.

    We undertook this work in the expectation that we would play a reasonable number of games this season. Unfortunately, as we all know, we have had a terrible summer and the Club has had over 40% of its matches either cancelled or abandoned early. We also suffered because of the alleged weed killer being used, we were unable to play on grass this year and we have played all our home matches on the artificial pitch. This type of surface is more susceptible to the weather as spikes cannot be worn on it, which creates a safety issue. The loss of these fixtures has resulted in large amounts of expected income not being realised, and our reserves have now all been used.

    Obviously our expenses still have to be met and these include rent, league fees, cricket balls, umpire charges, and insurance as a few examples. Our total rent is two fold because not only do we have the BSTC payment of £4560 per annum to pay, but we also use the Bradley Stoke Community School for our 3rd and 4th X1 matches, which costs another £800 per season. Using the local school is another example of BSCC putting something back into our Town by supporting other local organisations. We use the school to play our 3rd and 4th X1 teams which are in existence to enable us to offer our youth players the chance to play adult league cricket.

    The reason we asked BSTC for a rent reduction was because the facilities provided this year were not as per the terms of our lease, and also to assist us with cash flow in an attempt to survive as a club so that we can continue with our work in local cricket.

    It has been mentioned in these articles that the cricket club does not contribute to the community, but this is simply not true and the opposite applies. As previously mentioned our club and bar is open to any resident of Bradley Stoke and all are welcome to come along.

    I have already said that we have a thriving youth section which has produced many adult players over the years. On Sunday mornings there are regularly circa 40 young people receiving coaching in the beautiful game, and also being taught how to behave on the cricket field. These lessons in behaviour help to make them into decent citizens and I can honestly say that every one of them is a credit to the human race. Our youth section is open to anyone from 5 to 18, of all genders and all abilities. I strongly urge anyone who thinks that BSCC doesn’t offer a service to the community to get down to the ground (will have to be next season now) and see the fun that these youngsters have, often with their parents watching too. Our volunteer coaches gladly give up their time to make this community service a roaring success. As a measure of our success, this season three of our youngsters were invited by Gloucester County Cricket Club to receive a County trial. They are not the first to receive this honour and we’re certain they will not be the last.
    One other point from the article that needs clarification is the note that BSCC has been paid £1,456 as part of an agreed amount of £2,600 towards assisting the new contractor. I can categorically state that BSCC has not received, and will not receive, any of this money. It is true that assistance is being given to the new contractor, and is being done by a member of the cricket club, but not through the cricket club. It is an arrangement between BSTC and an individual who has experience with preparing cricket pitches. I can say however that the work being carried out by the individual concerned is vital to the preparation of the square for next season and would cost considerably more if carried out by a specialist company.

    BSTC should be congratulated on their efforts to restore the community facility which is the Town’s cricket ground, and are not to blame for the alleged applying of weed killer. It is an unfortunate situation that has occurred and regrettably comes with some costs attached.

    The point has been made that the rent reduction results in lost revenue of £1520 to the tax payer. Consider please that if the cricket club didn’t survive, then no rent would be received at all and therefore the loss would be £5000 (next years rent). It could be said that another cricket club would come in, but from our conversations with other clubs, they could not/would not pay such an amount of rent for what is in effect 6 months use. It is also unlikely that any new Club would have the Town’s name in its title. Having no cricket club would mean a large area of inactivity allied to a building which might be then underused resulting in further lost revenue for tax payers.

    I hope this helps to clarify the situation and goes towards a more positive reaction to one of our Town’s flagships, namely your local cricket club. In closing I would like to invite all residents of our Town to pop along next season and have a social drink with us (soft drinks available), when hopefully the weather will be good enough to sit in the sun and watch some good quality cricket from your local club.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Mike Mundy
    BSCC Club President.

  4. Mike, Thanks for your comprehensive and informative contribution.

    I’ll assume your comment about negativity refers to reader comments and not the article, which is entirely factual.

    With regard to the payment of £2,600 to BSCC towards assisting the new contractor, the Council’s published expenditure record of 15th August [] very clearly shows that the payee was “Bradley Stoke Cricket Club”. If you believe that to be incorrect, I suggest you contact the Town Clerk.

  5. Clubs like BSCC provide excellent opportunities for young and older people to recognise their abilities at whatever level they can. Being involved in this local club can provide the opportunity for all members to engage with each other across the typical divides of age, race and religion. Experience in communicating across these areas will help to break down the barriers between them and encourage a higher social responsibility in the area. I’m sure most people can see the benefit to this. Whilst I am a member of this club I would encourage any club, be it football, rugby, or whatever if they were presenting the same opportunities to their members and especially the young people of Bradley Stoke. It isn’t enough to just say “we do not get full community benefit” from this area. What is the definition of community benefit? Surely one definition is the engagement of local residents including the children in a sport where fairplay and respect are still long held traditions. Surely better to have them engaged in this club then the stereotypical view that they hang around on street corners causing trouble.

  6. Firstly I’d like to thank the cricket club for their efforts with all teams this year especially the youth team for which my 6 year old joined this year, it would seem that the journal lacks the appreciation of its community members who give put their time to teach the youngsters the game of cricket.

    I would also like to point out that the community needs the cricket club and football club to continue at this site as the Council seems hell bent on just providing facilities at the Jubille Centre and nowhere else.

    I personally wouldn’t be too concerned about the application of weed killer and the grand or so loss to the council in any case the contractor should have liability insurance to repay the council, be more concerned if a parent was to find their child seriously injured due to the lack of facilities in respect of rubbish clearance, the constant amount of glass and needles found surrounding the cricket pitch.

  7. I would also like to say a huge thankyou to all the members of Bradley Stoke cricket club for the time they put into the youth teams. They do a fantastic job in encouraging children to participate in a team sport, respecting each other, doing the best they can whatever their individual ability is, and to enjoy being part of a club to be proud of, regardless of results. My eldest son has been playing for Bradley Stoke for 3 seasons now and absolutely loves it. He hates it when training has to be called off because it’s raining and would quite happily still train in the rain. I wouldn’t class him as the sporty type but cricket is something he really enjoys and commits to do, to the best of his ability and supports his team mates with pride. My other son, who is an ardent footballer didn’t want to join cricket, but after going and watching his brother train every Sunday for several months started to pick up a bat and have a go. Before the end of my eldest’s first season, his brother had changed his mind about wanting to play and he has just completed his second season. His proudest moment this season….. when he made his very first catch, at the first game of the season, and it was the 1st one of that game. I was so proud of him too. Too many people complain about the youth of today, but when a club supports it’s youth, and encourages them to be good respectful team players they should be applauded and not made to feel that they are a drain on their community. I hope that the critics who feel that the money is a waste will come down next season and see what an amazing job is being done for the youth teams by very committed adults who willingly give up their spare time to help coach these enthusiastic youngsters.

  8. I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Bradley Stoke Cricket Club Committee for many years and have seen at first hand the extent to which the Club supports the local community in ways of which most people in the Town are unaware. It would be easy to have a simple landlord/tenant relationship with the Council, but the Club is proud to represent the Town in name and spirit, and one of the things we have been particularly keen to develop is a sense of partnership with the Council. Therefore, we’ve helped to develop both the general and cricketing facilities at Baileys Court with initiatives for which the Club has footed the bill. Those developments have included the poles and safety netting at the car park end of the ground, which we considered it our public duty to install for safety reasons, plus the new cricket nets and score box. These were all paid for by the Club. Also, four new wickets have been added to the square because the demand for youth cricket in particular has grown so much that the wickets already available were insufficient. The cost of those new wickets was shared 50/50 with the Council, and outlay by the Club over the last couple of years has totalled at least the amount that the weedkiller incident is reportedly costing the Council.

    It would be easy to say that these developments are mostly cricket related and are of benefit only to those who play cricket or have an interest in the Club, but we do this because we understand and readily accept that we are part of the wider community that is Bradley Stoke. We feel that presenting the Town with a Club and enhanced facilities of which it can be justifiably proud, and which offers the youth of the Town the opportunities that previous correspondents have already mentioned, is just as important as any fleeting pleasure we may derive from playing the game.

  9. So James, what do you suggest that taxpayers spend their money on that would benefit the whole community?

    I personally think that I am happy for my taxes to go towards a green space that is not only a cricket pitch, but a football pitch and also a nice space where small children, teenagers and older people can play or walk their dogs or sit and watch the world go by.
    The BSCC committee and members should be congratulated. These men and women give up so much free time to coach the youngsters and encourage them in the game. The result is a hobby, exercise, fresh air and developing their social skills. I consider that a benefit not only to the individuals playing but to the community – less bored teenage boys hanging around with nothing to do and causing a nuisance or getting involved in low level crime

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