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Consultation on proposal to reduce Bristol’s Parks Budget

Sam Thomson is Vice-Chair of Bristol Parks Forum. Bristol Parks Forum is as an umbrella organisation for volunteer-led community park groups and organisations in the city with an interest in their local parks and green spaces.

The forum works with Bristol City Council to ensure our parks & green spaces are well looked after and to help local groups enhance their green spaces. Any community group with an interest in any type of green space in Bristol is welcome to join the Parks Forum. A list of current members can be seen here.

In the blog post below Sam shares her views about the budget cuts to parks and the need for participation in the consultation.

**SINCE WRITING THIS BLOG, THE COUNCIL HAVE DROPPED PLANS FOR PARKS TO BE COST NEUTRAL. WHILE THIS IS GOOD NEWS, THERE ARE STILL SIGNIFICANT CUTS PROPOSED TO THE PARKS SERVICE BUDGET AND PARTICIPATION IN THE CONSULTATION IS STILL NEEDED**

Last week the latest in a long line of consultations has been launched by Bristol City Council asking the city’s residents to contribute their views about increasingly unpalatable cuts to public services. These cuts are intended to enable the city’s executive to meet the funding reductions being imposed by central government.

We’ve all heard the rhetoric repeatedly over the last year or so. Money needs to be saved and all of the city’s services have to contribute; it is difficult to argue with the logic and rationale behind this.

However, these arguments belie a history of repeated restructurings and efficiency savings which has left Bristol’s Parks department on its knees. The budget proposals currently being consulted on present the suggestion that any services facing cuts are simply absorbing their fair share of the budgetary pain and that those services have the ability to continue despite the budget reductions.

This is simply not true.

Even without the newly proposed cuts, Bristol’s Parks service is already on life support.

Bristol’s Parks service historically has had a national reputation for the quality of the way in which the city’s parks and green spaces were cared for; for its quality of training and education for young people and apprentices; and its positive and productive engagement with communities citywide to care for and enhance our public spaces for the benefit of everyone.

This service has been subjected to ongoing and repeated cuts over the last 10-15 years resulting in significant and continual reductions in the number of staff available to manage our parks day-to-day and to work with and support with the army of volunteers who contribute hundreds of thousands of hours annually. These volunteers, frequently without comment or fanfare, support the local authority to protect and enhance the city’s parks and green spaces for the benefit of all who live in and visit the city. In doing so they and park employees have improved outcomes for wildlife, nature, wellbeing, community cohesion and a wide range of other strategic aims for the local authority are achieved through parks; notwithstanding their role in supporting a healthy environment and enabling the city to manage the increased impacts of climate change in the form of flooding, higher temperatures, poor air quality, etc.

The proposed budget cuts will cut a service which has no more ‘spare’ to cut. The impact of these proposals on Bristol’s Parks will be devastating.

Dave Morris, Chair of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces underlines the issues currently facing parks UK-wide:

“Parks take a long time to fall apart. It’s not immediately noticeable, like a library closing, but all the pillars of effective park management and maintenance are crumbling. If not reversed, parks will be plunged into the disaster crisis of the 1980s and 1990s when they became no go areas full of syringes and no park staff.”

As with many things that are not immediately visible, we are in danger of the budget proposals being accepted before the impact of them is clear to park users – by which time it will be too late.

If you value public parks and believe that they are important, please make your voice heard. There are a range of free text options within the consultation which you can state that your views on the proposals to make further cuts to Bristol’s Parks budgets. Accepting any further cuts to the city’s parks budget will herald the beginning of the end of good quality, public parks and green spaces for all in Bristol.

Action you can take:
1. Participate in the consultation: You can type into the free text boxes your view on the proposals to cut Bristol Parks’ budget. The consultation closes on 29th January 2018.

2. Write to your Councillor(s), MP and the council’s executive making your views clear if you are concerned about this further reduction in funding to Bristol’s Parks Service and the threat it poses to the continuing availability of accessible, good quality public parks in the city .

3. Join your local Parks’ ‘Friends of’ or ‘Action’ Group and if there isn’t one, set one up! Get in touch with Bristol Parks Forum if you’d like any more information or advice about this.

Notes:
For further background information about the current crisis facing public parks UK-wide, see:
Heritage Lottery Fund (2016) The State of UK Public Parks, Heritage Lottery Fund, UK 
Moore, R (2017) The end of park life as we know it? The battle for Britain’s parks and green spaces, UK Guardian 
Community and Local Government Committee: Public Parks Enquiry (2016/17) 

See here for Bristol Green Capital Partnership’s statement on the proposed budget cuts.

Nature, Health & Wellbeing, Blog
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