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LGA: ministers preparing to introduce new parks duties

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New financial burdens are set to fall on councils following a parliamentary inquiry into parks, the Local Government Association has warned.

A report to its culture, tourism and sport board last week predicted ministers would want to monitor production of park strategies by councils and require them to collect statistics on health and safety in parks.

It said the extra costs involved “should be considered under the new burdens doctrine”, by which Whitehall is supposed to compensate councils for imposing extra responsibilities.

The communities and local government select committee earlier this month called in a report for councils to collaborate with health and wellbeing boards on strategies for parks and green spaces and for this to be compulsory if this was not done voluntarily. It also said councils should collate figures on safety incidents.

MPs said a cross-Whitehall working group “should monitor the preparation and publication of joint parks and green space strategies, and report annually on progress made” and called for the creation of national of regional park managers’ forums to spread good practice.

The LGA report said that communities minister Andrew Percy had committed to the cross-government group, while DCLG officials had already contacted the LGA about health and safety statistics, “so it is likely that both these recommendations will be accepted in principle.”

It noted: “Proposals to require councils to publish joint strategies would introduce an unnecessary burden, given that councils already make assessments of this impact as part of their planning responsibilities, and the majority are already recognising the value of parks in their work with health and wellbeing boards.”

The LGA report said compulsory park strategies, park manager forums and collecting health and safety data would all incur costs that should be eligible for help under the new burdens process.

 

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