Participated in meeting of Greenlink today in London. This is the body bringing together organisations involved in the parks and open spaces sector, an area that is being particularly hit hard by cuts at present. Many of the organisations present where third sector and social enterprises, who depend heavily on local authority funding and contracts to survive. This is a point the group has pursued at a recent lobbying meeting with DCLG Minister Andrew Stunnell, along with concerns on skill erosion and a reduction in perceived Government supportiveness for the importance of quality green space.
One of the senior civil servants present at the meeting of Greenlink pointed to the significant linkages to greenspace contained within the Localism Bill. She also referenced that Government would be producing civic society 'how to' guides and that one would be specific to Greenspace. She also referenced that there would be a Local Government Act by the end of the summer and a right to reclaim public land not being put to good use would be in this. I pressed her on whether this would be consulted on prior to issue as it has not been referenced within the Localism Bill.
Greenlink have also undertaken a survey of local authority greenspace teams on the impact on their budgets of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Some of the key themes were around are green services being treated equitably in the cuts and are the cuts eroding the ability to deliver on the Big Society aims of encouraging greater public engagement and involvement. Some of the points emerging are that the average cuts to parks and open spaces budgets appear to be 28% to 30%, although many appeared to think this was unique I pointed out that this was a consistent message coming back from all non statutory frontline services based on the survey work that APSE does across local government services.
The group then swapped stories on the impact of the cuts on their own organisations. As an example the design council and CABE have now merged and there has been a reduction in CABE staff from 110 to 20, they are now a charity and only have guaranteed funding of £2.85m per year for the next two years, previously their budget was between £10m and £11m.
Love Parks week is organised for 28 to 31 July. I managed to get in the launch of APSE's research paper on renewables 'the virtuous green circle' in the organisational round up.
After this meeting I went and had a discussion with Gaynor Hartnell the Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association to look at potential joint working between APSE and the REA.