21 March 2018, by Sarah Cosgrove.
HLF Consultation on cutting Parks for People grants and other changes ends today
Today is the last day to give views on changes to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s grants system, as more than 200,000 people sign a petition calling for ring-fenced grants for parks.
The signatories are hoping to change the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)’s plans for a new five-year funding framework, which is due to start next year.
The new system would have less money overall and would pitch parks applications against other heritage bids.
While the HLF has said parks “will not be disproportionately affected” under the new system, campaigners say the parks sector will lose out. They fear the sector, which has seen a haemorrhaging of staff, during the years of austerity, lacks the resources needed to compete against other heritage organisations.
The HLF’s own State of UK Public Parks reports in 2014 and 2016 documented staff reductions and concerns among professionals surveyed during the research that the loss of skills was highly damaging to parks.
Over three quarters of all local authorities reduced staff between 2010 and 2012 with the numbers of management staff being cut the most. The first report found that 81.3% of councils lost management staff and 77.4% lost operational staff. In 2016 71% of managers reported a reduction in operational staff from 2013-16 and 77% expected a further reduction in the three years to April 2019. 75% of managers reported a reduction in management staff in the previous three years and 78% expected a reduction in the next three. Some 77% of local authorities cut development staff.
The dedicated Parks for People funding pot had £25m available to fund parks in England and £3m in the devolved nations in the 2017/18 financial year.
The petition says: “Our public parks and open spaces are much loved and used with an estimated 2.6 billion visitors each year but they are also suffering from severe cuts to parks services made by local authorities as they seek to balance their books.
“To make this worse the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) now wants to abandon their hugely successful Parks for People programme that invested millions of people’s lottery money into improving parks and local facilities.
“Heritage Lottery Fund are currently consulting on this change in funding so help us to convince them to rethink and keep this precious funding so our parks can be protected and continue to be enjoyed by everyone.”
TPA plans to hand the results of the petition to the HLF before the consultation ends later today (22 March).
The HLF has given nearly £900m in grants to parks projects which have helped transform more than 800 parks over the past 20 years. To contribute to the consultation click here.