Cash cuts that will force a parks' team to axe all public flower displays, hanging baskets and tubs and reduce cutting and sports-pitch regimes have been branded an act of vandalism.
Not even Christmas lights have escaped the chop at Copeland Borough Council in Cumbria, which has to slash £2.6m from its budget by 2015, resulting in the loss of up to 40 jobs across the authority. Street furniture and shrub beds will go and allotment upkeep will be cut to a minimum.
Every discretionary service is being cut in a bid to reduce its total budget to £9.5m. Loss of floral displays will save almost £100,000 and grass-cutting reductions £86,000. Meanwhile, scaling back of sports-pitch upkeep and grubbing up shrubs will save £14,000 each.
Local MP Jamie Reed said: "There can be no doubt the sheer scale of the cuts imposed upon local government in Cumbria is an act of vandalism by the coalition government. The very fabric of our local civic society is being knowingly battered by this government."
But parks consultant Sid Sullivan criticised the council: "What a fiasco! Such drastic cuts should be put to a referendum. There is a professional point: changes to grass-cutting regimes bring other costs. Longer grass increases dust, pollen, litter and fire risk.
"The impact on the council's sustainability and health policies beggars belief. So much for the 'Olympic legacy', and the cuts will be most keenly felt by those least able to pay for alternative provision."
A Copeland representative said: "At the moment, we have no detail on exactly where job losses might fall. The whole process will be a complicated jigsaw of redeployment, seasonal jobs and temporary contracts that aren't renewed."
- Grass-cutting frequency cut to once per year, with path and perimeters more often in summer
- All other verges and greens reduced to two cuts per year
- Three-quarters of shrub beds removed and reseeded with grass
- Annual flower/plant bedding removed and reseeded with grass
- Flower tubs, hanging baskets and floral displays removed
- Management fee introduced for new play area developments
- Increased hourly rate for maintaining and inspecting play areas for partner groups
- Allotment upkeep reduced to essential maintenance only
- Standards of sports pitch provision reduced to cutting and goalpost provision only.
Saving: £216,000 per annum.