Strong leadership pays off

The need for strong leadership to build a future for parks in the midst of the ongoing funding crisis was a theme returned to again and again at a recent Parks Alliance round table - the first of a series designed to inform the development of policy positions to take the sector forward.

Another was that there is no silver bullet that can be taken to the current problems facing parks; instead today's examples of success will have been built over many years by those both able and willing to try radical new approaches.

Nottingham's parks department, which is on track to become fully self-funded by 2020 (see p4), is a great example, getting there through strong leadership and a commitment over many years to finding new ways to do things.

By taking a highly proactive stance in relation to new sources of funding over the past decade, the department, led by Eddie Curry since 2008, has gradually increased the percentage of funds generated by its team through measures such as sponsorship, increasing income from leases, concessions and events, and commercialising services including its nursery.

Park rangers have taken on training to become educators delivering a recognised qualification in schools - and the services of council landscape architects are rented out to the private and not-for-profit sectors.

Now Curry is setting up a parks trust to help with external funding that can be reinvested in capital budgets. As he notes, the department started out with more assets to exploit than many others, giving his team a head start. It is nevertheless an inspiring example in a sector that has become accustomed to the gloom of endless budget cuts.

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