CAMPAIGNERS have urged cash-strapped Bristol City Council not to make swingeing cuts to its parks budget.
Bristol Parks Forum says draft proposals show that the council wants to reduce spending on parks by £1.5 million a year – 20-25 per cent.
Volunteers and users of the city’s parks and open spaces responded to the council’s budget consultation opposing the cuts and as the Voice went to print were waiting to find out whether their voices had been heard.
The budget recommendations were about to be published and were due to go before the cabinet on January 24, with the full council making a final decision on February 21.
The council has to make difficult decisions to bridge a £31 million shortfall for 2023-24. It concedes that use of parks has risen since lockdown – but says this has put added pressure on staff and budgets and that new solutions have to be found.
Bristol Parks Forum said: “Reduced staff costs mean reduced staff numbers.
“This will mean less work will be done, less grass cutting, less bin-emptying, less repairs, fewer people to answer queries, fewer people to support park groups and other volunteers, fewer people to assess the likely impact of events or activities planned in parks & green spaces by other organisations.
“There is a suggestion that volunteers can take up some of the slack and do more, however, volunteers are likely to lose heart if basic maintenance isn’t done and, in any case, will in most cases, not have the time, skills, training or equipment to take on maintenance activities.
“They will not want to be in a position of taking on work previously done by staff who have been made redundant.”
Linda Wilson, chair of the Friends of Badock’s Wood, said: “The council suggestion that parks can be managed and maintained by volunteers is simply wrong. Our group has been going for nearly 25 years. We turned an unloved area from a tip to a treasure. But however hard our volunteers have worked over the years we could not have done that without the bedrock of the Council Parks Department’s resources. Volunteers cannot replace Parks staff. We cannot, should not and will not do their work. We are very concerned that Parks will very quickly deteriorate if these budget proposals go ahead and staff are cut, we will enter a spiral of decline.”
Jo Corke, of the Friends of St Andrew’s Park, said: “It is important that we keep all our parks under council management and that we don’t lose any of our green open spaces. Habitats need to be sufficiently close for many species to be able move from one to another. Loss of any green space is a loss for the whole city and beyond. Animals and plants don’t know about ward and county boundaries.”