Taking a full-blooded commercial approach to its open spaces while retaining high-quality public services for locals has earned Nottingham City Council a national award for best parks, grounds and horticulture service team from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE).
Head of parks and open spaces Eddie Curry said the authority soldiered through cuts of £1m to jack up income from leases, concessions and events by 20 per cent to £4m annually over the past couple of years.
"This is the second time in three years we've won the best service team for parks, while the council also won best overall authority of the year. We went back through our portfolio of leases and management agreements to ensure good market value.
"We also secured extra sponsorship from businesses and commercialised some of our services. We supply plants from our nursery to neighbouring boroughs and offer parks development, biodiversity and arb services."
Runners-up for the best service team award, were Birmingham City Council, Durham County Council, Knowsley Council, Stockton on Tees Borough Council and Wakefield Council.
Curry said: "Our real focus is to keep a positive, entrepreneurial outlook to drive forward commercial approaches to retain income levels and offset the burden on the council's budgets. We don't dwell on the annual cuts but on new opportunities."
Nottingham City Council also won an East Midlands in Bloom gold for the 19th time thanks to a drive into less affluent areas in need of regeneration. Judges praised allotments and spaces in front of libraries and community centres.
"We've had a long-standing ambition to move from traditional more affluent areas with heritage parks to less well-off urban areas," said Curry. "The strength of community involvement really impressed everyone."
The third gong last week, a beacon status award from the Lawn Tennis Association for courts in Vernon Park and Valley Road, recognised highly popular programmes and free-access courts.
"The winners of our service awards are truly the gold medallists of local government. They have strived for excellence in service delivery and put in extra effort to ensure that they deliver the very best in front-line services. The awards are unique because they reflect front-line service achievements in areas as wide as refuse collection to school meals."
Paul O'Brien, chief executive, Association for Public Service Excellence