HLF lifeline for hard-hit parks

As local authority consultations over budgets for the 2016-17 financial year continue, there is scant good news for unprotected parks departments, which from north to south are facing yet more cutbacks to staff numbers, facilities, planting schemes and more.

Bradford, for example, is proposing to close a nursery, usher in seasonal working and cut bedding schemes. Meanwhile in Brighton & Hove, parks are facing the potential loss of two-thirds of their ranger force.

Pre 2009, investment in facilities and park ranger services probably did more than anything to bring families back into many previously rundown parks - and their loss now will see them back out. Most concerning of all, we are now hearing reports of authorities that are reaching the point where they are no longer committing to offer a parks service at all.

In the midst of this depressing picture, the £32m Parks for People funding released by the HLF last week will have offered those on the receiving end a welcome ray of hope. The news that applications to the HLF from hard-pressed local authority-based teams are up (see p5) is particularly welcome, as in recent years squeezed council teams have struggled to find the resources to apply.

The HLF tells us that a focus within applications on support for volunteers and plans for working with partners such as friends groups are becoming more common, while all are thinking carefully about long-term maintenance.

The worry now is for those projects coming to fruition in authorities that made their restoration plans well before the extent of future public spending cuts would have been understood.

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