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Skills shortage for council parks

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Parks departments are facing a serious shortage of skilled staff to keep council green spaces trim, according to the Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment (CABE).

Research shows that 68% of local authorities believe that a lack of horticultural skills in staff is affecting service delivery.

At least one in five councils also cited staff deficiencies in design, finance and event management as problems.

The research highlighted a growing phenomenon of skilled craftspeople retiring without being replaced by new blood.

In its recent Skills To Grow consultation, CABE said a lack of interest among young people in careers in the parks and urban green-space sector was one reason for the shortage.

It added that perceptions that the industry was low-paid also acted as a deterrent to some would-be entrants. While a lack of clear career paths and opportunities to progress for those already in the sector was another outlined problem.

Nicole Collomb, CABE’s head of public space management, said landscape architects, park managers and people with the horticultural skills to maintain high-quality public spaces were expected to be in particularly short supply in the coming years.

“We are in danger of losing the essential skills needed to create and maintain liveable places just when we need them most, in the face of a changing climate and increasing concerns over the health impacts of our towns and cities,” she said.

As part of the consultation, CABE has produced a seven-point action plan, with boosting the sector’s profile as a career choice as its first recommendation.

Baroness Andrews, junior minister at the Department for Communities & Local Government which commissioned the report, said that while public satisfaction levels with parks had improved in recent years, the issues highlighted by CABE were a problem.

“We know there are concerns about whether we have the workforce and skills to take us into the future - and this could prevent the continued improvement in the quality of our parks,” she said.

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