Cuts to upkeep spell disaster

Many in the green space sector will remember the shock we all felt two years ago, when news broke of California's proposals to close a large number of its state parks in response to its budget crisis.

We told ourselves this was an extreme case and it couldn't happen here. We were right on the first count. How wrong we were on the second.

Across England and Wales, public spending cuts have seen £600,000 wiped off the £1.1bn parks maintenance budget this year - with yet more cuts coming. As we report this week, the drastic consequence of those cuts is all too clear in places such as Liverpool, where current proposals include a plan to axe all maintenance of every one of the city's neighbourhood and community parks.

These are exactly the kinds of local green spaces that matter most to the lowest paid, the least mobile, the elderly and hard-pressed families with young children. They are also the spaces that green space professionals have been warning would be hardest hit, right from the start of the public spending squeeze.

If the proposals go ahead - they are currently out for consultation - Liverpool may as well follow the Californian model. Without maintenance they will rapidly become no-go areas anyway - a place for vandals and crime.

As yet more local authorities threaten to consign decent green space to oblivion, any excitement we might feel at the prospect in 2013 at the arrival of the largest new urban park for generations in east London can only be tainted.

With the London 2012 Olympics soon on us, our politicians should be fighting to recreate the legacy the Olympic Park represents at a local level right across the UK. Anything less than that isn't good enough.

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