Now parks pay the price as cuts bite

Pictured is the Gents Vets Kever Watt Doubles Final at Longley Park No1 Green.....Bradfield 'A' v Millhouses 'A'...
Pictured is the Gents Vets Kever Watt Doubles Final at Longley Park No1 Green.....Bradfield 'A' v Millhouses 'A'...

SHEFFIELD’S parks and other green spaces joined the firing line yesterday in the council’s big money-saving programme.

A proposed cuts and income generating package includes higher fees for football and cricket pitches, cuts in bowling green maintenance, the introduction of car park charges in three big parks, the dropping of council support for the annual Environment Weeks programme and for community groups taking part in Sheffield In Bloom competitions and smaller grants for wildlife trusts.

The cost of burials and cremations is also set to rise.

Latest measures are designed to reduce the council’s spending on parks, woodlands and open spaces budget by £1.2m. It currently spends £7m and receives £4m in grants and from other sources.

The proposed package is part of the council’s drive to save £57m over the next year and follow cuts announced earlier in the week to some arts, cultural and community sports organisations.

They were also in the wake of the “devastating” blow to Museums Sheffield as a result of a failed £1.4m bid to Arts Council England, with the trust’s chair, Sandra Newton, warning: “We will become a minor second class museum in England’s fourth largest city.”

Politicians of major parties were rallying this week to support Museums Sheffield in an appeal against the decision and to ask for extra funding that is still available.

Already it had been revealed that allotment rents are going up - 7.5% this year and with a view to a doubling of the charges next year - to the consternation of some allotment holders.

This week the belt got tighter across the board in field of outdoor recreation. The council says it is aiming to make the savings while minimising any visible drop in park standards. It also says it want to offer advice and guidance to community groups to help them find other ways of continuing their efforts in sprucing up their neighbourhoods, despite it planning to remove its support for the annual Environment Weeks, litter reduction programmes and from groups which enter In Bloom competitions.

Since starting as a day event in 1984, Sheffield Environment Weeks is run by a committee of volunteers and has grown into a month long programme involving community groups across the city.

The main council aid has been through the help of its environment team.

Charges for football and cricket season hire to adult teams are due to increase by 14%, from £505 to £577 per team for a full season. There will be an inflationary increase for junior teams.

Cutting the cost of maintaining bowling greens could mean reducing the number of greens at clubs that have two greens or more. Talks are being held with bowling club representatives on how to save around £74,000.

A 10% grant cut has been lined up for Sheffield Wildlife Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Green Estate to save £18,000.

Charging for parking at three parks – Hillsborough, Graves and Millhouses Parks – is set to raise up to £100,000 “and to reduce the need for further cuts”. Fees would be 40p per hour or £2 per day. Blue badge holders would still park for free.

The policy was approved in 2010, when Endcliffe Park was on a provisional list. Now it is due to be rolled out, without Endcliffe Park.

“Streamlining” of some parks services is planned, which would result in the merging and reduction of some teams. Extra money could be generated through paid-for maintenance works.

Details of the rise in the cost of burials and cremations were not disclosed yesterday but the council said it would be “modest” and bring Sheffield in line with other cities and neighbouring authorities.

Cabinet member Coun Leigh Bramall said: “Our green spaces are important to us but sadly no area of our spending can be immune from the cuts the council is being forced to make.

“What we have tried to do is to look at ways of generating some income and become as efficient as possible.

“These proposals would help us reduce our spending but trying to do as much as we can with the funding we believe we can afford next year.

“As always, we want to hear what local people and user groups think and hear any proposals they have to save or generate funds next year.”