PARKS ‘CRISIS’ PETITION LEADS TO FIRST EVER RESIDENT-LED COUNCIL DEBATE [21.11]
- Residents to call on Councillors to reverse ‘savage and disastrous’ parks cuts and ensure adequate staff and maintenance for Haringey’s green spaces
- New Council official documents reveal that, due to cuts, 43 out of Haringey’s 46 parks have a zero maintenance budget, and only ’3 and a half’ trained gardeners to manage them
The Haringey Friends of Parks Forum ‘No Parks Cuts’ petition has triggered a ‘parks and green spaces crisis’ debate (over the petition text – see Apx 1, below) at the next full Council meeting on November 21st. The Friends Forum will be joining a general anti-cuts lobby outside the Civic Centre from 6pm [called by the Haringey Alliance for Public Services], then making a deputation to the Councillors inside which will be followed by a special debate. This will be the first resident-initiated debate Haringey Councillors have ever held.
The petition had been served on the Council on Friday 16th September by the Haringey Friends of Parks Forum. 2,499 residents called unequivocally for the 50% cuts to the parks budget to be reversed. This would halt the decline and neglect which Haringey’s green spaces have been plunged into since the ‘savage and disastrous’ £1m green space budget cuts began to be implemented in April – eg. mountains of litter, flower beds abandoned to weeds, lack of on-site staffing, and much-needed maintenance works cancelled. Due to the resultant residents’ protests and complaints the Council hired 8 additional staff for afternoons and weekends – but just for some of the major parks and only for the summer period. This attempt to mitigate the growing crisis was ended last month due to lack of adequate funding and the problems have continued to mount since.
Recent official Council documents [entitled 'Haringey Parks and Open Spaces - Bridging The Gap' **] have revealed the unviability of the parks department if the cuts are not reversed. With existing contracts having to be honoured for the 3 Lottery-funded parks and the green spaces on Homes for Haringey estates, there is currently a zero maintenance budget left for the other 43 parks and green spaces, and only 17.5 staff for those spaces of which only 3.5 are trained gardeners/park-keepers. There is also currently zero match-funding available to apply for outside funding streams in the future. The Council’s main response is to propose a huge increase in ‘volunteering’ by residents, and compulsory ‘workfare’ and ‘payback’ schemes to try to substitute for the paid, trained and fully-resourced full time staffing our green spaces have always needed and will always need. This fanciful and desperate approach has been forced on officers by the Council’s cuts and has been dubbed the ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ option – one that as far as we know has never been employed by any Local Authority in the UK.
It should be noted that in previous years Haringey’s parks budget was in the ‘lowest quartile’ of equivalent boroughs’ spending [official Council figures], but despite that low base funding the Council’s vicious 50% cuts this year were in the top 6% for any Local Authority parks depts in the UK [GreenSpace Report].
The department must be made viable. The Forum calls on all Councillors to listen to the borough’s residents, reverse the disastrous cuts, and instead ensure that all the green spaces they are responsible for are properly staffed, resourced and managed.
” Haringey’s green spaces are unique in providing for so many human needs, and for comparatively little outlay. But when starved of resources they can soon become run-down and unwelcoming problem spaces. Therefore the cuts must be reversed and adequate funding be allocated to manage them properly. ”
- Joan Curtis, Secretary of the Haringey Friends of Parks Forum
” The residents’ petition will force the Council to debate its policy of disastrous cuts to the parks budget. People have told us they are proud of, and value their welcoming and safe open spaces. Our parks are the most democratic of places where people from all sections of society can come together as equals enjoying the wide-ranging facilities. We don’t want to see them degenerate back to the abandoned areas of neglect that many became during the late 1980′s and 1990′s and call on the Council to think again. ”
- Chris Chadwick (Friends of Priory Park), for the Haringey Friends of Parks Forum, on handing over the petition in September
** Extract from LBH Leisure Services report: ‘Bridging The Gap’: To take forward and seek to scope out what needs to be done, 2 pieces of work have been undertaken. These are: 1. An assessment of available staffing resources and matching of these against requirement (appendix 1). From the 62 staff now available, once contractual commitments to HFH and HLF sites have been met, there are 17.4 FTE available for the 43 remaining parks and open spaces. 2. A defining of what tasks the Council is still able to do and how we propose to approach tasks that we no longer have capacity for (see “Bridging the Gap” model). For those tasks below the line, we are seeking alternative means of delivery. This could be by: Changing the feature to remove/reduce/ease the maintenance requirement (see those areas to the left of the table)… or Via an alternative means of delivery (areas to the right of the table) via an incentivised “volunteering” approach or intermediate option.
Note: The Haringey Friends of Parks Forum is the umbrella network for the 40 local Friends Groups for Haringey’s local public green spaces. The Forum works in partnership with the Council to ensure the borough’s green spaces are properly cared for and improved.
THE PETITION TEXT TO BE DEBATED AT THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING:
We the undersigned petition the council to
- halt cuts to parks staffing and maintenance budgets, and to keep all on-site staff depots
- put adequate resources into our vital local parks and green spaces
We object to…
- the slashing of local park budgets by over 50% (£1m)
- the threat of drastic cuts to the number of staff working in our parks. Our hardworking and much needed staff are currently being consulted over compulsory redundancies – we send them our support.
- plans to close a number of parks’ depots or lease them out to street cleaning teams
The Council’s spending on green spaces is already in the lowest ‘quartile’ of comparable boroughs, yet these threatened cuts are almost the highest in the UK.
We believe this will make our green spaces unsafe, and undo the improvements the Friends Groups have worked so hard for over the last 10 years. It will return them back to the shocking neglect of the 1980/90s.
We call on the Council to halt the plans, and put adequate resources into our vital local parks and green spaces.