A mixture of strategies to attract investment, improve the service and secure jobs has Nottingham parks' service on track to be self-funding by 2020. This is crucial because the city council has to make further savings of £20.5m in 2016-17, including £400,000 from its parks department.
Gross expenditure in the service has reduced over five years from £8m to £6.3m. Income has risen significantly to £4.2m, creating a net cost of £2.1m. The team brings in 66 per cent of service costs and generates £8.83 of external capital funding for every £1 of council funds.
External funding since 2007 totals £28.7m, achieved through bids and commercial activities. Many of these have been created through partnerships - for example, working with the England & Wales Cricket Board helped to create Victoria Embankment Pavilion, worth £750,000, with resource contributions from 60 businesses ranging from at-cost to free.
Harvey Hadden Sports Village brought in investment of more than £16m from Sport England, British Cycling, England Athletics, Wren and Notts Athletics Club. Some £750,000 was brought in for a three-year programme to improve 11 parks through the Wren/FCC Building Communities Fund programme, with partners contributing a further £314,000. Grants given by Wren to Nottingham City Council parks over nine years total £1.6m.
Commercial activities include the Woodthorpe Park Plant Shop, which adjoins the nursery and is open every day; the offering of commercial nursery services; park rangers leading school activities and corporate away-days; and Nottingham in Bloom sponsorship across more than 30 traffic islands and parks.
The city also offers a parks development, arboriculture and landscape architecture and design service to neighbouring local authorities as well as the private sector.
Nottingham now has a record 25 Green Flags, 15 Community Green Flags and two Heritage Green Flags - one of the best results nationally - as well as an all-time-high 93 per cent public satisfaction rating, on which it plans to improve.
Nottingham Open Space Forum has been relaunched as an ambassador for the service, set up as a trust to secure external funding. It includes influential business people and active community representatives.
Bath & North East Somerset Council