Councils needn’t hang on grimly to our parks

Responding to today’s cross-party report on public parks, independent trust Power to Change has urged councils to hand more control to local people.

Richard Harries, Director of Research at Power to Change, said:

As the report makes clear, local authorities are in a bind. Safe, accessible public parks are essential to healthy and happy neighbourhoods, but years of austerity has left them grossly under-funded. Urgent action is needed.

It is increasingly difficult to see why councils would hang on grimly, when cuts to some park budgets have been as deep as 97%. There are other options. Nearly two hundred public parks in England are already run by local people as community businesses, and that number is growing. This sort of transfer from a council to the community is still relatively rare, but with local authority funds so squeezed and parks so important, officials should consider it much more often.

‘Where a local group is ready to step in, and has viable plans for keeping their public park alive, councils should be alive to the opportunity. Just moving different pots of public money around to fill the gaps – robbing Peter to pay Paul – won’t cut it’.