Managers told knowing value of parks is key as 'repositioning' of services starts

Green space managers were urged this week to ensure that they have a firm grasp of their asset base and are well versed in the now significant body of research backing the value of parks as savage public spending cuts loom.

The call came at parks charity GreenSpace's conference Saving Your Service, where CABE Space head of public space, strategy and design Peter Neal said parks leaders needed to "reposition" green space services to meet the core policy objectives of the coalition Government, which included reduced costs, a shift from welfare to work and - most importantly of all for the sector - locally-focused services.

Saying the Decentralisation & Localism Bill would be key for the sector, he added: "It is going to be about greater flexibility and working in partnership at local level."

Neal revealed that CABE Space was researching where parks services are best placed within local authority structures to deliver the most effective services. The research will also look at how parks can be more successful in partnership working and will take in other organisational models.

He reminded delegates that the sector has a strong evidence base on the value of green space in terms of its economic impact, health value and quality-of-life benefits. "We are now more clearly informed about the value of green space," said Neal, citing CABE research that helps managers understand the value of their assets and priorities in the face of cutbacks.

Meanwhile, research highlighting the high popularity of parks in comparison with other services will prove key as the Government begins its task of asking the public what priorities they have for cuts.

Neal's message was backed up by London Borough of Islington performance manager Jerry Gutwin. He described how documenting and valuing park assets had led to big savings from standardisation and the ability to put the case for the parks budget.

"Once you get the information you can start to justify every penny, which is going to be scrutinised," he said. "Once you have the data, you can show the value. You won't ever get the budget you really need, but the data you have can help protect what you have got."

For more info and research on making the case for parks go to our GreenSpace Resource section.

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