The chairman of the Britain in Bloom UK judging panel has urged cash-strapped local authorities not to pull out of the competition in future years but to work in partnership with communities to create successful campaigns.
His call came after some hard-up local authorities that traditionally managed and supported local campaigns directed resources elsewhere in the wake of coalition cuts.
Speaking to HW after the winners of the 2011 competition were announced last Monday, Roger Burnett said working with communities on Britain in Bloom was a fantastic way for councils to align with the "Big Society" agenda and give added value at a reduced cost.
In the face of the current pressures, communities had "really rallied round" in this year's campaign, he pointed out. "If faced with prioritising between potholes and petunias, I fear that potholes will win. I think that we will see a continued shift towards much greater community involvement."
Among the local authorities forced to review their contribution to the contest were Sheffield City Council, Leicester City Council, the London Borough of Southwark, Bury Council and Cornwall County Council.
Bury Council said it would not enter in future unless "the extra costs can be met by additional support from the wider community".
A Cornwall spokeswoman said although it would no longer enter, its service providers were required to support local groups in the process.
Britain in Bloom campaign manager Stephanie Eynon said first-time entrants meant that those dropping out this year had minimal impact to the overall numbers.
She added: "Those taking part for the first time have succeeded by developing innovative partnerships with local communities."
She urged local authorities not to dismiss the competition. "What they get out of it exceeds in multiples what they put in."
Eynon's point was echoed by Rod Pooley of Bristol City Council, who said given the input of volunteers it would cost councils more to pull out than continue.
This year's 76 finalists were awarded a record 20 gold medals as well as 36 silver-gilts, 19 silvers and one bronze at a ceremony in Scotland. Cricklade in Wiltshire scooped the champion of champions title while Bristol won the top spot for large cities and Guernsey's St Martin took best small town.
- The London Green Spaces Friends Groups Network received a special achievement award last week at the Green Flag awards ceremony in London.
Network chairman Dave Morris, accepting the award, called for the Government to make parks a statutory service. "Government representatives have a duty to ensure our green spaces continue to be provided for public use and standards are maintained through investment."
Britain in Bloom 2011 - Category winners
Cricklade - Champion of champions
Loughgall - Small village
Luddenden - Village
Broughshane - Large village
Whitby - Small coastal
Cleethorpes - Large coastal
St Martin, Guernsey - Small town
Rustington - Town
Glenrothes - Large town
Derry City - Small city
Stockton - City
Bristol - Large city
Uddingston, Glasgow - Urban community
For the full list of winners, see