England's vital parks face 'meltdown' over Covid cutbacks

England’s vital parks face ‘meltdown’ over Covid cutbacks unless extra cash is found, Labour warn Boris Johnson

  • Robert Jenrick MP pledged support worth more than £3billion earlier this year 
  • Labour has produced a new report suggesting the extra money was not enough
  • Huge drop in funding for open spaces over the last ten years can’t be recovered
  • Steve Reed MP said funding fell by around £295million in real terms since 2010

Boris Johnson is being warned that England’s parks face financial ‘meltdown’ unless extra cash is found.

It comes amid figures showing that the country’s ‘green lungs’ are vital to people coping with the virus pandemic.

Earlier this year, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick pledged support worth more than £3 billion to help local authorities cope with the impact of coronavirus.

But Labour produced new research yesterday suggesting that the extra money was not enough to make up for a huge drop in funding for open spaces in the past decade.

The village park at Wesward Ho! in Devon, which campaigners fought to save two years ago. Earlier this year, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick pledged support worth more than £3 billion to help local authorities cope with the impact of coronavirus

Shadow Communities Secretary Steve Reed unveiled figures claiming that spending on open spaces in England has fallen by more than £295 million in real terms since 2010 – a drop of 30 per cent.

Expenditure overall on services including waste collection and clear-up in parks had plummeted by more than 15 per cent in the same period.

But Mr Reed pointed out how millions had flocked to parks and other open spaces after the coronavirus lockdown – especially given many lack vital outdoor space at home.

He cited ‘community mobility’ data from Google for the UK as a whole suggested park usage has soared by 116 per cent in the first two months after the lockdown was relaxed in early June.

Protesters camped in Old Tidemill Park in Deptford when officials tried to lock the site ahead of redevelopment in 2018

However, fighting the virus had left town halls so strapped for cash that they are facing the prospect of having to cut all non-essential spending, including maintenance of parks, Labour claimed.

They pointed out that in Tory- run Bexley, cutbacks had led to park bins being left unemptied at weekends.

Mr Reed paid tribute to The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Parks campaign for highlighting how important ‘public spaces are to the nation’s health and well-being’.

 

But he warned: ‘It’s all very well for Robert Jenrick to promise some extra cash but it will be nowhere near enough to spare our vital public spaces from damaging cuts. While the coronavirus pandemic has shown beyond doubt how vital parks are, these much-loved green spaces are under threat because of broken promises by incompetent Government Ministers.

‘A decade of cuts has already had a disastrous effect on parks maintenance. Now, at a time when more people than ever need access to green spaces, a fresh wave of cuts to council funding could see our parks become overgrown, run down and full of litter.’

Mr Jenrick yesterday said: ‘These claims are simply unfounded scaremongering from Labour.

‘My message to readers is clear: your parks are in safe hands with this Conservative Government and we will protect them for future generations to enjoy.’

Bexley Tory cabinet member Peter Craske said Labour was ‘inventing fictional claims about a brilliant borough’. 

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