Merton plans to leave its parks unlocked overnight to save money

Plans to leave 16 parks across the London borough of Merton unlocked overnight are among a raft of measures aimed at cutting £1.4m from Merton Council's parks budget over the next four years.

The borough owns more than 100 open spaces ranging from large parks to small patches of land between buildings. Of the larger sites, 20 are locked at night to discourage antisocial behaviour. Four of those will continue to be locked by staff who live on-site, but the remaining 16 are locked by mobile teams that the council plans to axe as part of a strategy to cut its parks budget by 40 per cent by 2014.

The council's open space leaders plan to meet local parks' friends groups next month to discuss options for maintaining services. Cabinet member for the environment and former council leader Andrew Judge said: "If there is a real risk posed by leaving the parks unlocked, we will try to find special arrangements such as volunteers. But they are often reluctant to challenge people to leave at night."

He added: "We'll work with friends groups to come up with ideas for raising money that could pay for a continued service."

Outlining other cost savings, Judge said "a significant number" of parks across the borough would no longer receive any maintenance as a result of the cuts.

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