Communities and Local Government Committee launches parks funding inquiry

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee is launching an inquiry into public parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority parks budgets and consider concerns that their existence is under threat.

The Committee will look at how parks should be supported now and in the future. This will include studying alternative management and funding models, such as a mutual or a trust.

Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee Chair, Clive Betts MP, said: "Whether it is kicking the ball about with friends, joining a Parkrun, walking the dog or just relaxing with a book, people value their local parks. But with councils under enormous financial pressures and with no legal obligation to fund and maintain public parks, these precious community resources may be at risk.

"The Committee will be asking what the future is for our open spaces and we want to explore the ways in which parks can be supported and secured for generations to come. We will be keen to find out about innovative and successful approaches to managing and funding parks and what Government can do to support these.

"We know people value their local spaces, and we want to develop a clear picture of the community benefits of public parks as well as who is using them, how often and for what?"

The decision follows a recommendation to the last Parliament by the former Communities and Local Government Committee in 2015 that a select committee inquiry should be held into parks. 

The 2015 committee's report made it clear it was influenced by a submission from The Parks Alliance, the sector body formed to stand up for parks following Horticulture Week's Make Parks a Priority campaign. 

The Make Parks a Priority campaign, launched in July 2012, called for a select committee inquiry into parks in response to the crisis in funding facing the sector. 

Evidence from 2014's Heritage Lottery Fund’s State of UK Public Parks report, written by landscape architect Peter Neal, and the National Trust, was also considered.

The Committee invites submission of written evidence to its website on the following issues by Friday 30 September 2016:

  • Who uses parks and open spaces, how often and for what
  • The contribution of parks to the health and well-being of communities
  • The impact of reductions in local authority budgets on parks
  • What the administrative status of parks should be in light of declining local authority resources for non-statutory services
  • How new and existing parks can best be supported
  • What additional or alternative funding is available and what scope is there for local authorities to generate revenue from park users
  • What the advantages and disadvantages are of other management models, such as privatisation, outsourcing or mutualisation

The Committee wants to encourage as many people as possible to contribute to the inquiry. In addition to a face to face survey in parks across the country, the Committee will be organising an online survey, web forums and a Twitter hashtag, #myparkmatters, where people can let the Committee know why they value their local parks.

The current CLG Committee will be working with the House of Commons Education Service’s network of Teacher Ambassadors to engage with children and young people. The 75 Teacher Ambassadors, representing schools nationwide, will be asked to encourage their classes to think about what their local parks mean to them and their communities, and to share their views with the Committee. 

Committee Membership: Clive Betts (chair) (Lab, Sheffield South East), Bob Blackman (Con, Harrow East), Helen Hayes (Lab, Dulwich and West Norwood), Kevin Hollinrake (Con, Thirsk and Malton), Liz Kendall (Lab, Leicester West), Julian Knight (Con, Solihull), David Mackintosh (Con, Northampton South), Jim McMahon (Lab, Oldham West and Royton), Mark Prisk (Con, Hertford and Storford), Mary Robinson (Con, Cheadle), Alison Thewliss (SNP, Glasgow Central).

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