Parks professionals fear for landscape watchdog CABE amid Government cuts

Alarmed parks experts are worried Government cost-cutters will kill off CABE, the landscape and architecture watchdog.

They spoke out after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said some of its 55 public bodies were set to be "merged, abolished or streamlined". Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was part of the drive to shred costs and increase transparency, accountability and efficiency.

He said he was "considering the role" of CABE, which includes CABE Space as well as English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The Agricultural Wages Board has been scrapped (see p8).

"Many of these bodies were set up a considerable length of time ago, and times and demands have changed," said Hunt. "In the light of the current financial situation, it is the right time to look again at the role, size and scope of these organisations."

Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said: "I would be horrified if it disappeared. Its good work will not be sustained and we will go back to the compulsory competitive tendering era where price is everything. Only a philistine would do that. Big Society is meant to be about listening to people and the Government said anything that made a difference would be left alone."

Sullivan added that if closure was signalled he may try grouping together parks experts to lobby the culture secretary to find an alternative that avoided closing CABE.

A CABE representative said: "CABE understands the need for the DCMS to scrutinise its role, size and scope in the light of the current financial situation. We will be co-operating fully with the officials undertaking the review."

Earlier this month CABE chairman Paul Finch said: "As we see inevitable cutbacks in public funding, it's good to remember the significance of public bodies and independent professional institutes. You don't miss them until they're no longer there."

Finch, talking about the "David Cameronian proposition for Big Society", said public bodies had to "take these cuts with all the stoicism we can muster".

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