Taxpayers Alliance' advice to use cows to cut grass slammed as "medieval" by union

The Taxpayers' Alliance and Unite have squared up over money-saving advice to councils - including using animals to cut grass in parks.

Volunteer cowherd Danny Flynn with Shetland cattle currently cutting grass on Canal and River Trust land
Volunteer cowherd Danny Flynn with Shetland cattle currently cutting grass on Canal and River Trust land

Replacing mowers with sheep or cattle, a method already used in some circumstances by the City of London Corporation, The Canal and River Trust and Quadron for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is one of 201 ways in which councils can save money and save residents from having to pay more council tax, according to a list released by right wing think tank, The Taxpayers’ Alliance, today.

The Alliance said that "local politicians should look to cut out wasteful spending and consider removing non-essential services."

Other tips include charging to hold events in parks, selling off redundant park lodges or other facilities and waste land for housing, selling council-owned farms and car parks, renting park buildings and library space to cafes, taking cars from parks constabulary, re-tendering for every contract and contracting out every service.

But the country’s biggest union has slammed the idea as "wacky" and akin to returning to the Middle Ages.

Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: "The credibility of the Taxpayers’ Alliance has to be seriously questioned when ideas taken from medieval times, such as grazing sheep, are wheeled out in its endless quest for publicity.

"Has the alliance worked out how much it is going to cost to buy these animals and pay the substantial veterinary bills? The prospect we face is hundreds of these animals freely roaming around municipal parks ignoring health and safety considerations when children are playing – and being a prime target for urban rustlers."

Cattle which currently graze on public green space are generally lent by local farmers with organisations promoting the benefits of their presence for biodiversity and improving the natural environment – including introducing city children to farm animals - although they can save money as well.

Councils are facing massive cuts in next year’s budgets and the Government announced another ten per cent reduction in funding from April 2015.

Yesterday Local Government Association chairman Sir Merrick Cockell urged the government not to cut further in the Autumn Statement as council resilience was being tested to breaking point.

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