At a time when many other local authorities are making significant funding cuts to their parks and green spaces budgets, Knowsley Council has tonight approved a Notice of Motion which seeks to protect the borough’s parks and green spaces.
The Notice of Motion approves the establishment of the Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board which will review funding and governance arrangements for the borough’s parks and green spaces. Importantly, the Board will consult with the public for their views which will form a key element in any recommendations they make.
Cllr Andy Moorhead, Leader of Knowsley Council said:
“I am delighted that the Notice of Motion has been passed which has given the green light for an independent working group to be established. The group will explore options for alternative funding and management arrangements for our parks and open spaces, but essentially, maintaining them whilst also looking to identify opportunities to generate income.”
“We already run successful Bush Craft, Forest Schools and team building programmes in our parks, as well as the installation of green gym equipment in 15 parks, and further opportunities will be fully explored. I look forward to receiving the group’s recommendations over the coming months.”
Knowsley is home to some of the best open spaces on Merseyside. With a variety of formal parks, gardens, woodlands, natural spaces, sports areas and playgrounds, as well as 18 Green Flag award-winning parks, the spaces are enjoyed by residents, visitors and businesses alike.
In terms of next steps, Board members will be recruited throughout February consisting of a wide range of representatives from Town and Parish Councils, local businesses, friends of parks groups and academics. Research will be conducted between March and June, engagement with residents and stakeholders will be carried out in July and August and a final report, outlining the Board’s recommendations, will be available to the Council in October.
Regular updates on the Board’s progress will be available here on Knowsley News. In the meantime, we have answers to your top questions here:
Why are the council looking at a different way to fund and manage parks and green spaces? Why can’t they carry on doing this?
Knowsley Council has lost £86m in budget cuts since 2010 and has to find another £16.8m of budget savings over the next three years. Every service across the council has reviewed what and how it delivers its services to try and identify efficiencies. It costs the council £1.3m per year to maintain its parks and as this is not a statutory responsibility, it has to find a way to protect these amazing spaces but at a reduced cost.
An independent Board will be responsible for leading a review of how the parks and green spaces operate, including conducting research, engaging with communities and making recommendations on the future of the borough’s parks and green spaces within a new model which protects them for future generations and from future Government funding cuts.
What will the review aim to achieve?
The Board is an independent body commissioned by the council to undertaken an in-depth review of potential new funding and governance models for the borough’s parks and green spaces.
The Board’s objectives are to identify a new and sustainable delivery model for sustaining Knowsley’s public parks and green spaces.
Parks and green spaces are a discretionary function of the council – this means it does not have a statutory legal obligation to fund them – but it recognises that they are a hugely important and highly valued asset amongst residents, visitors and businesses.
At a time when other local authorities have cut their parks and green spaces budgets, Knowsley Council wants to protect those unique public assets but in doing so it needs a more efficient and modern way to sustain the important benefits these amazing spaces provide to the community.
The Board will develop its set of recommendations and present to the council in October.
Who is leading the review?
The independent Board will consist of representatives from the Town and Parish Councils, businesses, Friends of Parks Group and academics.
It will be Chaired by Gideon Ben-Tovim, Chair of Nature Connected (the Liverpool City Region’s Local Nature Partnership which advises the Local Enterprise Partnership on environmental matters). Paul Nolan has been appointed as Vice Chair and he is the Director of The Mersey Forest Partnership and he has extensive experience in green infrastructure value measurement, investment and management.
The Board will meet on a monthly basis.
What will happen as part of the review, and when?
The proposed timeline for the review is outlined below:-
February – Board Members will be appointed.
March to June – Research and a review undertaken on how parks are currently managed and resourced, further opportunities regarding their use including funding opportunities.
July and August – Public consultation to be carried out.
October – Presentation of findings, with recommendations to the council.
Will I have an opportunity to take part in the process?
Yes, there will a public consultation over the summer to seek the views of residents, visitors and businesses. Further information will be here on Knowsley News when it is available. The consultation will also be widely publicised through other communication methods including social media, leaflets and local media.
When will a decision be made?
The recommendations will be presented to the council for consideration in October 2017. It is expected that a decision on which recommendation to take forward will be made in early 2018.
How much does the council hope to save through the review?
A saving of at least £1.028m is expected to be made as a result of efficiencies made to how the service is delivered.
Will the activities and facilities in our parks and green spaces be affected?
Whilst the review is on-going, there will be no reductions to what services, activities and facilities are available in the borough’s parks and green spaces.
Could the review result in the closure of parks / green spaces?
The council are doing this review in order to protect its parks and green spaces and it will be able to address this question when it considers the recommendations made by the independent board. The council would like to reiterate that the review is looking to identify a delivery model that sustains the borough’s parks and open spaces for generations to come.