CABE calls green space cuts 'false economy'

Council chiefs who think they are smart by cutting management and upkeep of green spaces almost always throw up costs elsewhere, according to CABE Space.

Such cuts were nearly always a false economy, said the design watchdog in its latest, and probably last, report.

Managing Green Spaces lists seven "ingredients" for success such as strong, motivational leadership, unified running and upkeep and close partnership working.

Green spaces were being managed in a changing context, with councils having more autonomy to choose the services they provided, according to the report.

"But just cutting management and maintenance is nearly always a false economy because it generates costs in other areas. For instance, it increases the need to police antisocial behaviour in a derelict space," said CABE Space.

The key was safeguarding quality with less money, it added. Good political and managerial leadership was the most important driver of performance along with easy access to the top people by the green space team.

The report quoted a green space officer who said managing without money was a skill and the art of persuasion was crucial. "You need to get your ideas across to the manager, elected members and chief executive. That's an art in itself and I leave that to the head of the service. He's a master at it."

Meanwhile, a parks development manager said: "The key to change is integrated service. Putting a parks and horticulture service together means you've not got two separate arms."

CABE concluded that the structure of the service or where it sat in an organisation was not of "great significance". It added: "What does matter very much is unifying the management of the green space and day-to-day maintenance. And it is essential to invest fully in skills at all levels."

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