Royal Parks agency welcomes audit office report

National Audit Office findings commend agency for strategic developments but criticises building backlog

The director of the Royal Parks agency has welcomed a government audit report, despite its revelation of a £110 million maintenance backlog. The National Audit Office report covers management and development of London’s eight Royal Parks. Director Mike Fitt said: “It was a very positive report, recognising the strategies we have put in place over the past few years.” But the national press has picked up on negative areas of the report, particularly the back catalogue of building maintenance work. Fitt said: “The parks are 500 years old, so you can always expect a backlog to some extent. It’s only when you audit this that it comes to the forefront. We are working to remedy this and self-help [from the Royal Parks Foundation charity] will play a large part.” Auditors also noted that performance targets had not been met for overall quality and cleanliness in the past three years. Fitt responded: “We have many criteria for ensuring quality and cleanliness. Only one of these failed, by just one per cent. Although we want to do better, we don’t feel that conditions have slipped dramatically.” He added: “One thing I thought was interesting was that it took into account views from the public. It showed that 97 per cent of people thought the Royal Parks were as good, if not better, than any park they visited in the past month.” The report commends the agency for many improvements made under a new senior management team and the development of strategies to encourage greater access to the parks. The report recommended participating in the Green Flag awards scheme and the agency plans to enter three of the parks for the 2005 awards and all eight in 2006. It is in talks with local boroughs to develop benchmarking schemes.

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