Poll shows public yet to see full impact of cuts

The impact of austerity on parks and streets has not yet filtered down to the public consciousness, according to a new poll.

Parks: quality put at risk by further Government cuts - image: © Anne Marie Briscombe/The Royal Parks
Parks: quality put at risk by further Government cuts - image: © Anne Marie Briscombe/The Royal Parks

Four out of five people surveyed by Ipsos Mori think street cleansing and the quality of their public parks has improved or stayed the same over the past five years - a similar result to the 2013 poll.

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) believes councils have so far shielded their residents from the impact of the cuts. It has warned councils will no longer be able to do so if the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review contains cuts as deep as predicted.

The review, to be published on 25 November, will set out the Government's spending priorities for the next seven years and show how it plans to save the £20bn it needs to eliminate the deficit by 2019-20.

As Horticulture Week went to press, four departments - Defra, the Treasury, the Department for Transport, and the Department for Communities & Local Government - had agreed to cut spending by eight per cent per year for the next four years.

Cuts will come from efficiency savings and closing of "low-value programmes". Departments had previously been asked to model cuts of 25 per cent and 40 per cent to unprotected department budgets, which include such services as parks management and street cleansing.

At the time the LGA warned a 40 per cent cut would deliver a "knockout blow" to local services and that the clean parks and streets the public takes for granted would become things of the past.

Its analysis of more than 370 councils across England and Wales found that increasing cost pressures and 40 per cent cuts in Government funding would see local government with a £20bn financial hole by the end of the decade.

Cutting all non-statutory services - including parks maintenance (£690m in 2013-14) or street cleaning (£717m) would not plug that gap.

LGA chairman Lord Porter said it would be a "false economy" to reduce funding to local government because other public bodies such as the NHS will be picking up the pieces.

"It would be our residents who would suffer as councils are no longer able to deliver some of their statutory duties, like street cleaning and providing the free bus travel that is a lifeline to our elderly and disabled."

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