APPG and AGM for Parks and Green Spaces

On the 18th January, I attended and represented the PMA at the AGM and recent All Party Parliamentary Group for Parks and Green Spaces where a number of MPs turned up from both Labour and Conservative. I had 10 minutes to air views on the current position re lack of funding, profile, and especially the declining quality of our parks and green spaces. My focus was very much on quality and it was good to see over 100 joined online. I focussed on an email I received from a colleague before Christmas which was from the heart. The park manager who sent me this has worked in the sector for decades, in a northern authority and I asked whether I could anonymously share this.

“Parks staff are broken, disheartened and aging –  people have forgotten we’ve been in serious measures for over a decade, and compounded with 2 years of COVID, public expectations of green spaces what they should be like and what service we can provide with the resources we have, …. We are on our knees.

Complaints are on the increase , ASB – the kids have gone feral and we are suffering vandalism, weekly on sites all over the borough – 2 play areas have had to be removed/decommissioned this summer due to ASB… Safer Neighbourhood policing reduced, reduced youth services = no engagement…. Arson & vandalism increased, and taking a toll on the revenue budget.

Friends and volunteers are struggling to keep going, aging , frustrated, disheartened by the ASB, and reduced support from us…

The current recession and what happens over the next few years as we are asked to tighten our belts even further. 35yrs in and I’ve never seen it this bad….

We need to support the volunteers we have as best we can, we can’t afford to lose them, during covid we did have an increase in volunteer litter pickers , which was a god send with the increased footfall…

We have reduced grass cutting frequencies over the last 5yrs….now branded as rewilding…. More areas to come under the new banner next year. The push to plant trees, is meaning we are again reducing areas of grass cutting within some of our lesser used sites with planting small copse and mini orchards.

Only seasonal bedding we now have is around the Town Hall – the rest was taken out of schedules in 2013….. any seasonal in our district parks is arranged by the Friends groups from funds they have raised, but its minimal.

There is no capital for development, this has been like this for decades…  ( revenue is laughable) all development /new facilities are funded via external grants /106/ what ever the 3 of us can get our hands on….but we are on our knees answering complaints and firefighting.

No different to everywhere else I expect….

Id love to hear what little easy wins others are trying – but while housing, social services and education remain top of the list, poor old parkies will always get the short straw…”

The outcome of the APPG meeting? who knows, but hopefully it will lead to further debate in Government. We have to keep lobbying and we will.