Earlier this year the Communities and Local Government Select Committee announced an enquiry into Public Parks. The enquiry was prompted by growing concerns about continuing cuts in the funding of public parks and the implications this has for their future. The funding of public parks is not a statutory requirement on local authorities, and at times of budget reductions parks, along with other non-statutory services, suffer disproportionate funding cuts.
During the two and a half years of our existance we have seen the re-organisations taking place, the staff reductions which have followed from them, and the gradual decline in the resources available for the upkeep of the park. For these reasons we decided to make a written submission to the Enquiry drawing on our experience of the park and parks services. This was submitted to the Enquiry on 28th September 2016.
The report is quite long so we have reproduced below the summary of our main conclusions which are at the beginning of the report. If you would like to read the whole submission it is available here.
Public Parks Enquiry
Communities and Local Government Committee
Written submission from
The Friends of Victoria Park, Leicester
Summary of our Main Conclusions
Funding of Parks
* We cannot see any viable alternative to public funding as core funding for public parks.
* Funding for parks needs to be guaranteed, or protected, in some way. To achieve this we support the designation of public parks as a statutory service provided in accordance with some agreed standards. The Green Flag scheme could be an appropriate starting point for defining adequacy of local provision.
* Protection needs also to be applied to park land itself. We support action which will protect public parks, or parts of them, from disposal.
* There may be scope for further developing additional funding, through income generation or other means, but this can only be subsidiary to the main core funding.
* Efficiency savings, whether by rationalising existing models, or creating new ones, will not be a solution to the funding problem of parks.
* The use of volunteers to cut costs will undermine the current voluntary contribution, and will not be a solution to the funding problem of parks.
Different Models for Providing and Managing Parks
* The current arrangements for providing and managing parks through local authority ownership and control appear best suited to the characteristics, roles and functions of public parks, and the management demands that arise from them. There will need to be clear and compelling reasons for introducing alternative arrangements.
* A major strength of current provision are the existing arrangements for local accountability through local councillors and their extensive links within local authorities.
* Voluntary funding, voluntary management, and voluntary maintenance of parks will be neither adequate nor effective in maintaining parks provision.
Principles of Parks: Management and Funding
* Parks need to be accessible to all, free for public use, and should seek to meet the needs of local people.
* Park management need to be able to assess local need, be accessible to the local community, and have clear arrangements to ensure local accountability.
* Management arrangement for parks must be professionally competent, capable of managing the size and complexity of the tasks involved, able to relate effectively to a range of other local services, and must be adequately resourced.
* There needs to be visible staffing presence on parks.
* Management arrangements for parks, whether existing or new, need to be able to combine vision and flexibility to respond to the changing and growing demands on public parks
* Parks need significant and adequate core funding, whatever its source, to be able to function effectively as public parks, and meet the expectations local people place on them. This funding needs to encompass both capital and revenue funding.
* There needs to be a predictable stability to this core funding. One off grants, even substantial ones, cannot adequately support a park, and will not provide revenue funding for maintenance.
If you would like to read the whole report it is available here.