Grounds maintenance cuts part of Manchester budget proposals

Manchester City Council is planning to cut £100,000 from its grounds maintenance budget in its next three-year cycle - but has raked back £75,000 in cuts following public consultation.

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

The authority needs to find £30 million in savings over the next three financial years to plug what it calls "a serious shortfall in our budget", as austerity and increasing social care costs continue to bite.

It its draft budget, on which it is running an online consultation until 10 February, it proposes cutting £100,000 from grounds maintenance in 2018/19, one of five key savings measures in the parks and leisure directorate.

The figure has been reduced from the original £175,000 after local people said cutting grounds maintenance was their least favourite money-saving option in a consultation run between 3 November and 15 December. Investing in energy-saving projects and sharing office and management costs were most popular. A proposal to merge back office operations does not affect parks.

The £100,000 annual saving will be made by reducing the 23 bowling greens cared for by the council’s in-house parks team, and currently used by 962 bowling club members. A council spokesman said that both the number of members and overall use of the greens have seen a significant decline in recent years but it recognises that bowling is a positive activity which contributes towards promoting better health and social inclusion, particularly for older people. 

He added: "In addition, the results of our recent budget conversation showed that both green spaces and leisure facilities are highly important to Manchester residents.

"In partnership with bowling green users, it is proposed that a saving of £100,000 could be made from a consolidation of the number of greens, alongside more cost-effective arrangements for maintenance of those that remain."

In common with other large metropolitan authorities, Manchester is suffering from a perfect storm of austerity cuts to central Government funding, rising social care costs, an aeging population and a significant percentage of the population who need council support.

The Government has given councils the go-ahead to bring forward future council tax rises now to fund adult social care. However, council tax brings in £130million of its total budget from council tax, while social care alone costs £157million. 

In addition Manchester City Council says the Government’s decision to cut the New Homes Bonus grant to fund a new, one-off Adult Social Care grant has led to a deficit of £900,000 in Manchester alone. It is proposing a 3% council tax rise for the next two years to fund social care, raising £8.8million over the next three years, and a further 1.99% increase over the next three years to fund other services.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "The last few years have been very challenging for the council as we have had to deal with continuing cuts at the same time as increasing pressures on services. This has been exacerbated by unfair Government funding settlements which have hit big cities such as Manchester the hardest.

"But we remain determined to do all we can, working with Manchester people and other partners, to continue to protect the vulnerable and give everyone the opportunity to share in the success of the city’s growing economy.

"This budget process underlines this partnership approach as we attempt to strike the right balance which, inevitably, still involves some difficult decisions."

Manchester City Council’s final budget setting is on 3 March.


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