Budget: Parks left to face twin threats of departmental cuts and council tax freeze

Higher than expected departmental cuts and a freeze on council tax could leave parks suffering more than expected but there may be opportunities for contractors, said industry figures.

Chancellor George Osborne said an extra £17bn of departmental cuts was needed, taking the total cut to 25 per cent.

Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said the cuts and council tax freeze could see more partnership working and outsourcing but would affect every authority differently. "Some will just bury their heads in the sand and say we got through compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) but that's not good enough.

"We will see more parks services joining up with their neighbours. This budget will force people to look for economies of scale. It says to me fortune favours the brave. If you are imaginative you will still be here with a reasonable service, but if you are timid it could be savage."

Oldham parks manager Steve Smith agreed that more partnerships were likely and argued that it could precipitate a fundamental change in the approach of many authorities.

"The level of these cuts is just unprecedented - 25 per cent is absolutely colossal. Some of the things we do will definitely be going in the bin so we will be focusing on core land management for the next two or three years and getting rid of all the nice stuff. I just hope we don't return to the days of CCT."

Both Sullivan and Smith predicted a windfall for contractors who could benefit from increased outsourcing.

Quadron managing director Clive Ivil confirmed some authorities were already approaching contractors about increased externalisation. He added: "Some councils will look to externalise, some will cut and some will do things radically differently. There are opportunities for us there but we need to work closely with councils."

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