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CALL FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO HAVE MORE FINANCIAL FREEDOM TO FUND PARKS

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In a new report, CABE Space warns that amidst unprecedented levels of capital investment in our parks and green spa...
In a new report, CABE Space warns that amidst unprecedented levels of capital investment in our parks and green spaces, new methods of paying for their long term management and maintenance are urgently required. Without this funding, parks run the risk of being improved now only to endure a gradual decline in quality later - requiring further large injections of capital if they are to be restored again. The report calls on local authorities to explore new methods of paying for ongoing maintenance, and is asking central government to allow councils greater flexibility in pursuing innovative funding methods.

The Paying for parks report, commissioned from PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, says that parks have undergone a remarkable renaissance in recent years but maintaining this improvement is a major challenge. The huge areas of new and restored green space due to be created in coming years (as part of housing growth and housing market renewal schemes, or as part of the Olympic preparations) are at risk of an uncertain future unless mechanisms to generate their long term revenue funding are built into decisions being made now.

The report considers eight models in use in the UK and elsewhere to fund the management and maintenance of urban green space. It encourages local authorities and green space managers to think more imaginatively about what funding mechanisms might be available to them. And it points out that this also requires investment to improve the skills base in the green space sector. Not only does a horticultural skills shortage threaten to undermine the day to day maintenance of parks, but there is also a need for the management, promotional and presentational skills needed to effectively pursue and then maintain new funding streams.

While some models highlighted in the report may require different management and financial skills to implement, other mechanisms would require allowing local authorities the opportunity to have greater control over locally generated revenue. Some of the models are difficult for local authorities to pursue unless they are allowed more freedom - English local authorities have limited ability to levy additional local taxes, for example, and they are not currently permitted to issue voter-approved bonds. The report therefore suggests that greater flexibility for local authorities should be taken into account as the government considers the Lyons review of local government efficiency and rolls out the forthcoming white paper on local government.

Edward Hobson, acting director of CABE Space, said:

'This research shows that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to funding parks. Different models will suit different circumstances and traditional local authority funding is likely to remain key for most parks. But new ways of sourcing and generating revenue are needed to give parks longer term security. Implementing the innovativemethods we have reviewed requires lateral thinking across the public, private and voluntary sectors if we are to sustain the improvement we have seen in parks over recent years. And there is definitely a role for central government in considering how it can help local authorities to be innovative, and thereby make devolution a reality.'

Notes

CABE Space aims to bring excellence to the design, management and maintenance of parks and public space in our towns and cities

Research for the report was carried out by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, with additional research by CABE Space and Groundwork. This consisted of an analysis of key documents about the funding of urban green space, interviews with key people, and assessment of national and international funding models.

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