Oldham gave evidence to the select committee at Stockport Town Hall. We were invited with three other Greater Manchester councils. Oldham's strategic approach to capital investment and sustaining revenue commitment together with close working with communities received praise from the select committee.
I remember colleagues from neighbouring boroughs not having such an easy ride. The committee carried out numerous site visits to a number of major urban parks whose decline and poor condition were obvious. Bennett gave senior officers from those boroughs that he felt had neglected major parks with significant history the equivalent of Sir Alex Ferguson's half-time hairdryer treatment.
Bennett knew exactly how well-maintained parks and green spaces impact on communities in so many ways - indeed, he was passionate about the parks cause. I will be asking Andrew Gwynne to show his support for Early Day Motion 219. I will not leave the meeting without it.
I still have a copy of the 1999 reports and the observations and recommendations are still relevant today. However, the critical difference is a significant loss of revenue funding and expertise at all levels that in my view is key to the solutions.
Over the summer months, I have visited many parks that I know intimately. Many of them have been improved significantly over the past decade. However, it is clear that the rot is setting in and we must all fight to try to reverse these wholly disproportionate budget cuts to one of our most vital public services.
Steve Smith is a parks consultant
EDM219 calls for a new inquiry into urban parks. See www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/makeparksapriority.