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This week, the Commons Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee published their report into the state of public parks.
The MPs reported that parks are at risk of falling into neglect, as funding to maintain them comes under pressure, leading to, for example reduced opening hours, the removal of play equipment, toilets closing and more litter, vandalism and rats.
They urged councils to find new, innovative ways to fund and manage parks, adding that they should remain owned by local authorities and be freely available to everyone. Local authorities do not have a statutory duty to fund and maintain public parks, and a 2016 report by the Heritage Lottery Fund found 92% of park managers had seen cuts to their budgets in the past three years.
MPs warned that unless parks were recognised as "much more than just grass and tulips", there was a risk of turning the clock back to an era of neglect seen 20 to 30 years ago. They argued that parks play an important role by, for example helping to integrate communities, tackling climate change, preventing flooding, reducing air pollution exposure, boosting health
and providing leisure amenities.
Through the management of the Green Flag Award scheme, Keep Britain Tidy works with Government, both nationally and locally, as well as parks departments and communities, in supporting our parks both now and for future generations.
Following the publication of the findings, Allison Ogden-Newton, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: ‘We’re disappointed that the committee didn’t see fit to recommend making provision and maintenance of parks a statutory service. We recognise this is not without difficulty but we believe it would have provided a clear focus for future investment and maintenance.’
‘However, there is much to recommend and we’re pleased that the Committee responded to our call for a cross-departmental team working across government to ensure that the myriad benefits provided by parks are recognised and factored into policy and future spending decisions.
‘We’d like to see this group ensure that Local Authorities and Health and Wellbeing Boards work together in the preparation of the proposed local parks and green space strategies.'
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