Parks departments face further budget cutbacks

Cutting staff, demolishing public toilets and ending bedding schemes are all on the cards as local authorities try to eke further savings from already-stretched budgets.

Image: Morguefile
Image: Morguefile

With most local authorities now consulting on their budgets for the 2016-17 financial year, it is a rare council that has not pushed through yet more cuts to the parks department. Many are also flagging up that it will increasingly be up to residents to keep their green spaces flourishing.

The London Borough of Barnet said it will be relying more on the community as it aims to gain "greater value" from its green spaces. It needs to cut £4m this year, of which £50,000 will come from parks services (with an added £345,000 to be cut by 2020). Plans include getting rid of bedding unless locals are willing to "adopt a spot", returning swathes of open space to the "natural" look, cutting highway grass less often and turning bowling greens over to locals to manage.

Along with closing a nursery and a "significant" cut in flowers and bedding worth £50,000, full-time parks roles will be cut at Bradford, with plans to bring in seasonal staff to cover warmer periods, at a £135,000 annual saving. The city also plans to ask sports clubs to manage and even take ownership of pitches, while increasing pitch fees for facilities that it still owns. Car parking charges will be brought in at parks and woodlands, and a sponsor will be sought to provide the city's Christmas trees, saving £15,000 over two years. The city must bridge a £53.3m budget shortfall by 2017-18.

West Berkshire plans to demolish its two remaining public toilets or transfer them to Newbury Town Council, saving £70,000 as part of overall £180,000 of cuts. The council already gets "good value for money" on the maintenance of its 240 parks and open spaces but said it is likely to lean more on community groups this year.

Cardiff is also planning to get rid of seven public toilets, terminating a 20-year contract halfway through to save some £137,000. A further £25,000 will be cut by bringing tree management work in house and there are plans to generate more income from the Roath Park Conservatory and RHS Flower Show Cardiff as well as upping sales of nursery plants.

In Brighton & Hove, volunteers are fighting to stop two-thirds of their park rangers being let go. The city's nine rangers were told before Christmas - via text - that six would be losing their jobs in a bid to save the council £175,000.

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