I thought I would take this opportunity to update you all on a few recent developments and follow up on a number of conversations the Parks Management Forum have had.
Like all of us, in my own authority in Watford, circumstances have hit us hard, financially and emotionally. Because of this I wanted to touch on what I feel our focus should now be and will be discussing this with members of the PMF. The issues that concern me are funding - no surprise here - but my take on this, having spoken to colleagues, is that there is no future bail-out coming.
Despite billions going to culture, arts and heritage and many other sectors, yet again, parks have received nothing, and to be absolutely frank, there is nothing coming. MHCLG have stepped back and appear to have lost interest in parks. DCMS are dishing out money but parks don’t come under their remit. The National Lottery Heritage Fund have new priorities and whilst parks are still important to them, there is no magical bag of money anymore.
So where does this leave us? In pretty dire straits it would seem. Local authorities across the UK now have huge holes in their budgets and in many cases, cuts will have to be made. We now need to shift our emphasis to protecting what we have, to supporting those staff in parks and to promote what we do like we never have before. We must go back to basics but be better at it. We need to support, learn from each other, and continue to be innovative and creative as we have been for years, if not decades. The evidence we have from academics, bodies like Fields in Trust, Green Flag, APSE and Future Parks Accelerator have been incredibly helpful. Yet as a sector we are still incredibly fragmented with many groups pertaining to be ‘the voice of parks’.
Well these voices are all important, but these voices now need to join up and be one unified strong singular voice. With this in mind, and after discussions with some in the sector, including Drew Bennellick and Paul O’Brien, I am hoping we can pull together a meeting of all bodies working in our sector to move this forward. We also now need to look at how we can support those in parks management, maintenance and development roles in the future – building on the knowledge hub we have and looking at developing Technical Advice Notes, specific guidance on the many issues we face day to day.
Chris Worman MBE recently gave an update on the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group for Parks and Green Spaces
Some of you will be aware that I have been lobbying for an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Parks and Green Spaces for some time (outside of PAG).
I am pleased to report that we have seen the inaugural meeting (via Zoom) on this new and important APPG, which was chaired by Lilian Greenwood MP.
The group’s statement of purpose was agreed as “To address the most urgent issues affecting our parks and green spaces, including but not limited to funding, skills, inequality of access and provision, climate change, biodiversity and the impact they have on the nation’s health and wellbeing”. It was also agreed that Keep Britain Tidy will provide the secretariat.
The pandemic has demonstrated how valuable public green spaces are to our nation’s physical and mental well-being, not to mention the vast environmental benefits they provide. The group will provide a unique platform bringing together Parliamentarians, industry experts and other key stakeholders to discuss pressing issues. This is a real first for the industry and puts our discussions into parliament.
Let’s hope this new opportunity will help cement the future funding of parks in the coming years