Cuts that will hurt our health

Over the past two to three years, primary care trusts have slowly begun to respond to calls for the well-documented contribution to public health made by the UK's parks to be recognised with desperately needed investment in their infrastructure.

Sefton Primary Care Trust's decision to commit nearly half a million pounds to the creation of outdoor gyms across the borough is the latest and one of the most significant examples of this very welcome trend - and both the trust and the green space team responsible for the project deserve congratulations.

What is utterly heartbreaking, however, is that this recognition of the importance of parks facilities by the health service should manifest itself just as parks teams across the board are facing yet another year of savage cuts.

As councils have been confirming their budgets for 2012-13 in the past couple of weeks, reports of yet more green space departments being subsumed into general catch-all divisions, yet more reductions to already cut-to-the-bone maintenance budgets and yet more cuts to bedding displays, overall standards and participation in key community activities are coming through. We will be reporting in more detail on budget outcomes next week.

While the proactive and determined stance of so many green space professionals in the face of budget reductions is to be applauded, the basic facts cannot be ignored. The level of cuts we are seeing in many places, and the inevitable lowering of standards that will follow, cannot help but lead to a reduction in use of parks by communities at a time when they have never been more needed. That includes - at the top of the list - for health and well-being.

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