. Lobbying for adequate resources for all parks and green spaces
Cuts generally: Information about cuts to London Parks and green spaces presented at the meeting was limited and sometimes unclear. However, as an indication the following areas of cuts were mentioned:
* Staffing reductions, specifically of park rangers (Lambeth, Hounslow)
* Reviews of grounds maintenance contracts, assets and leases (Camden, Haringey, Richmond),
* Threat to Green Flag programmes (Camden, Islington)
* Encroachments (building) on common land (Greenwich, Lambeth, Waltham Forest)
* Loss of play areas (Hounslow) and public toilets (Lewisham)
* Pressure to raise money by holding more commercial events etc (Camden, Islington, Lambeth)
Cuts to staffing and maintenance: A shop steward for parks staff (of trade union Unison), also a Friends Group activist for over 10 years, talked about the danger of falling morale of staff employed in parks and green spaces caused by understaffing, low maintenance budgets, threats of redundancies and uncertainties. Many gardeners and rangers jobs are under threat. Contractors and agency staff may have a high turnover, dont have all the necessary skills, and jobs can be done at the wrong time of year e.g. pruning. There seems to be a pattern of thinking pushed by the Government (Camerons ‘Big Society’ push) that many of these skilled jobs can somehow be done by ad hoc volunteering but there are very serious problems about this. Many activities, eg the use of heavy machinery and all kinds of tools, are dangerous and require training. Friends Groups should make good links with existing staff, and ask their gardeners if they have any issues. If they have, they could be raised at Friends Forum meetings. Friends groups and Union members should work together to lobby Councils for the good of our green spaces. A discussion followed and the above was broadly agreed.
Lobbying to protect park resources: It was felt that Friends Groups and Forums must speak out as loudly as they can. This was likely to be a long haul… and if we don’t speak out who will? Local groups and Forums could insist on scrutinising maintenance contracts and ask to be included in discussions about reviews of these contracts. We can get information on the nature of planned cuts by asking for, or submitting ‘Freedom of Information’ questions. In calling for adequate resources we will need to link up with staff and Unions (see below) and other Friends Forums and networks across the UK. We agreed:
– to promote local green space events and publicity during ‘Love Parks Week’, July 23rd – 31st.
– to organise a London Friends Groups Celebration and Protest Picnic for Parks and Green Spaces in Central London on a green space by Parliament or Downing Street on the last day of Love Parks Week, Sunday July 31st, 12-4pm. LFGN chair to make the initial arrangement. [Victoria Tower Gardens by Houses of Parliament has since been booked]. All groups encouraged to attend and bring a picnic!