Park budgets squeeze continues

Rathbone Road Park in Liverpool to be sold to developer as council tackles £32m savings plan.

Liverpool City Council is to sell one of its parks to a developer for £1.5m, its mayor announced in a budget meeting last week.

Joe Anderson detailed plans to save £32m this year, insisting that his is the hardest hit city in the country. Last year, Liverpool made headlines by threatening to close all community parks, before the council backed down at the last minute.

News of the sale of 2.3ha Rathbone Road Park is one of several measures to cut costs and raise money outlined by Anderson. Others include "reviewing" operations at two municipal golf courses to save £300,000.

"I completely understand that some people will be extremely unhappy - I am too," he said. "But the simple fact is we get 80 per cent of our funding from the Government and the cut in our grant means we are the hardest hit city in the country."

The council said the mayor will spend the £1.5m on new play facilities. He will also free up £300,000 revenue support to help pay for the running of the new facilities and there will be no job losses from parks this year.

Other local authorities voted on budgets last week. The parks team at Wirral Borough Council must save £450,000. It will reduce cutting of rural verges, plant more wild flowers, reduce floral displays and shed four seasonal gardeners.

Head of parks and countryside Mary Bagley said the cuts could have been much worse but the council is committed to a parks modernisation plan and will use capital receipts to fund a three-year upgrade programme.

"We are going for 16 Green Flags, two more than last year. Other councils are pulling out of the initiative but it's an important performance indicator. Ours is an in-house service and we have to prove value for money. We are steering a really good path."

Green spaces in Oxford also have council support, said head of leisure and parks Ian Brooke. Parks have a 92 per cent satisfaction rate. Nevertheless, they are making efficiency savings in a £2m budget.

"These include generating extra income from tree and landscape work, multi-skilling staff and using vehicle trackers," he added. "We are using big recycling bins to reduce frequency of collections and automated cemetery gates to save a few thousand pounds."

Hyndburn Borough Council in Accrington is making five per cent cuts to its parks budget, spread across various areas to limit the hit, said parks and open spaces manager Craig Horabin. Like Wirral, he was told to suggest cuts, which were eventually rejected by councillors keen to safeguard parks.

"We were asked to suggest savings and said we could cut back on hanging baskets and flower towers or close parks. As a district council we don't run schools and social services, but streets and parks are noticed by the public. We've not been hit too badly."

There was better news at Westminster City Council, where the parks team last year had to absorb a 40 per cent cut in its revenue budget. It has seen money ploughed back into the department "to start things moving again" in areas such as replanting beds, said parks manager John Tweddle.

'Make Parks a Priority' Campaign

Horticulture Week's Make Parks a Priority campaign is calling on everyone concerned with parks to ask their MP to sign Early Day Motion 219 calling for an inquiry into the funding crisis. For a template letter and full campaign details, see

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