The Friends of Park Lime Pits (courtesy Linda Mason).

Countryside cuts debate begins in cyberspace

The Friends of Park Lime Pits (courtesy Linda Mason).

A group of concerned Walsall borough residents have taken a stand in cyberspace against proposed Walsall Council budget cuts which they believe will seriously affect the future of Walsall’s green spaces and Countryside Services.

The Friends of Park Lime Pits have set up a new Facebook Group to allow local people to debate these concerns in the open and to raise the profile of the cuts at the same time as Walsall Council is inviting the public to have their say on the 2013 budgetary proposals.

HAVE YOUR SAY ON CUTS

Early budget proposals which went to Walsall Council’s cabinet on 24 October are published at www.walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay and indicate that more than £13 million of savings are needed in the next financial year alone as part of £70 million worth of savings over the next four years. More than £32 million has already been ‘saved’ over the past two years.  The published proposals are set to be redrafted before the final budget is decided in February 2013.

According to the Friends of Park Lime Pits, although the fine detail is missing, £400,000 worth of cuts are being proposed for the department dealing with Walsall’s parks and open spaces.

And it is believed that should the cuts go ahead, two of four Countryside Rangers could go, along with other posts in Parks.

SAVE OUR PARKS AND COUNTRYSIDE

Linda Mason, local resident and Secretary of the Friends of Park Lime Pits decided to set up the group ‘Save Walsall’s Green Spaces and Countryside Services’ last Friday evening to celebrate all that is good about the much loved service and to campaign for its future existence for the benefit of future generations of Walsall.

Linda said:

“I have become aware over recent weeks through the local blogging community and also through volunteering with Friends of Park Lime Pits, of potential cuts to jobs within Countryside Services  and the effect that such cuts could have upon this much loved and respected part of the services provided by Walsall Council. I was heartened to see that within 18 hours of the group being set up there were 75 supporters.

“The group aims to put pressure on the council to reconsider the budget cuts. Countryside Services and its staff are a real asset to the town and borough and provide a wealth of expertise, commitment and hard work in maintaining, promoting and improving all green spaces and local nature reserves. Their loss would be keenly felt.”

An e-petition has been formulated and submitted to the council for approval and the Group hopes that it will be available for signature by individuals later this week.

VOLUNTARY GROUPS

Although certain voluntary community groups do help with Green Space maintenance, they can only function as effective groups with the leadership and support provided by the committed and knowledgeable staff that are currently in post. Apart from Countryside Services, parks staffing will also be cut and maintenance reduced as part of the cuts proposed.

Without these people, green spaces across Walsall borough will suffer through lack of maintenance, vision and management. As well as environmental concerns and anti-social behaviour issues, these green spaces could become places where nobody would want to visit, thereby depriving local people of much needed leisure and environmental opportunities for relaxation and a healthy living both of mind and body.

JOIN THE DEBATE

The Facebook group can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/437765136281023/

And is open for everyone to join.

Picture courtesy of Linda Mason and the Friends of Park Lime Pits.
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