London Councils warns funding cuts mean parks could be privately run

The capital's parks could be privately run by 2025 as funding cuts are starting to threaten even the community groups that maintain them for free, London Councils has warned.

Parks: council budgets cut back - image: London Councils
Parks: council budgets cut back - image: London Councils

After the Government's in-year cuts announcement, the organisation, which represents the capital's 32 boroughs and the City of London, warned that councils may soon be unable to support volunteer groups.

Council budgets have been cut 47 per cent in real terms since 2010 and in the past four years boroughs' spending on open spaces, allowing for inflation, has fallen by 18 per cent, with a drop of more than 10 per cent in 2014-15 alone. There are fears across the sector that parks are approaching a tipping point, said the organisation.

London Councils transport and environment committee chair Julian Bell said the climate of austerity means parks will continue to feel the financial strain on their resources. "By harnessing the time and expertise community groups offer, we have been able to continue caring for these precious areas of green space for relaxation and play," he explained.

"There is now real doubt about whether or not councils will be able to support these groups as boroughs divert what money they have to meet statutory responsibilities such as public health and elderly care."

Bell said if the funding problem passes the tipping point: "Communities risk losing control of parks, along with democratic accountability for the open spaces that they value so much". One group facing an uncertain future is the Streatham Common Co-operative (SCCoop), which looks after the common - in the London Borough of Lambeth - aiming to make its management more accountable to locals.

SCCoop chair Richard Payne said the group plans to expand across more local parks in 2016 and to provide benefits such as meeting local health needs and generate income from partnerships and events. All income is reinvested locally.

But Payne warned: "SCCoop has much lower overheads than a typical provider as we have a pool of volunteers to draw on, but even so the level of cuts that are planned will challenge us and it is hard to see how all services can be maintained."

Streatham Common Group under threat

SCCoop grew out of the Friends of Streatham Common. It was formed in 2013, with a £20,000 budget from Lambeth Council's Co-operative Parks Programme allowing the group to get established, hire staff and make initial capital expenditure.

In February 2015 it took over management of the Rookery. It aims to take on management of the rest of the common in 2016 once the council's current contract expires. This year the council allocated £1m to develop the playground and other facilities from the Lambeth Capital Investment Fund.

Volunteers help maintain the horticulture and wildlife of the area and the group recently won a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Projects being considered include composting with Lambeth Mencap and a plant-growing project for adults with intellectual disabilities, partnering with charity L'Arche.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

IoG Saltex 2016 - show preview

This year's Saltex will be looking to build on the success of last year by packing in a multitude of exhibitors and sessions over the two days, Sally Drury reports.

According To Dunnett ... Horticulture needed to 'colour in' green infrastructure

According To Dunnett ... Horticulture needed to 'colour in' green infrastructure

It's now around one year since work started on Sheffield's groundbreaking "Grey to Green" scheme, one of the largest urban green infrastructure projects in the UK.

Tree lifting, moving  and planting

Tree lifting, moving and planting

Successful relocations can see even big trees flourish while costing less than buying new stock, says Sally Drury.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Contracts & Tenders

Sally Drury on professional gardening

Sally Drury

A monthly checklist of things to do and watch out for to keep your garden looking its best.