Park managers look to future after cuts

The Association for Public Service Excellence's state of the industry survey into parks and green space departments, published this week (page 4), brings home the dramatic impact that the comprehensive spending review is set to have at authorities across the UK.

When the survey was last carried out in 2008 and respondents were asked how they expected their parks budget to change in the next year, half said they expected their budgets to decrease while a quarter said they would stay the same.

Two years, a global financial crisis and a change of government later, and those same parks departments are now all facing a universal decrease. Just 0.9 per cent of respondents said they expected budgets to stay the same - and worse, 48 per cent believe their budget reductions next year will be substantial.

The study, carried out in September, backs up the expectation that one consequence of the budget changes will be an increase in partnerships between parks services with the private and voluntary sectors. Asset transfer is also clearly also on many authorities' minds.

Further parks managers interviewed painted a picture of a future where community involvement, partnership working with multiple local groups and agencies, shared services and potentially the development of services for private organisations are likely to become priorities - all against a backdrop of reduced maintenance and cuts to service standards.

Given the challenges ahead, the news this week of the Heritage Lottery Fund's (HLF) decision to significantly lower the bar for securing grants for parks projects is very welcome indeed. Finding match-funding in such difficult economic times for the public sector was becoming an obstacle to continuing the great work already done through the HLF and Big Lottery Fund park schemes.

A cut to the percentage of match funding required with the difference made up by the HLF could mean projects rejected by green space managers as just too difficult in the current financial climate are now actually feasible. Managers should heed this rare piece of good news and check out the details at www.hlf.org.uk.

Email: kate.lowe@haymarket.com


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