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‘Short-sighted’ cuts to park rangers will have negative impact on Bury’s economy and residents’ well-being

By Tui Benjamin

‘Short-sighted’ cuts to abolish the park ranger service have been lambasted by a Bury Councillor, who branded the proposals as devastating.

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Holyrood ward Tim Pickstone is completely opposed to Bury’s Labour-run council’s plans, which make up part of an overall savings target of £17.7million by 2015 and are currently subject to consultation.

“We all know savings need to be made by all public sector bodies in these difficult economic times, but there are other ways the council could save money without devastating a front line service,” he said.

Cllr Pickstone said the park ranger service plays a vital role across Prestwich and Bury, holding and assisting with numerous events and playing a vital role in helping local voluntary groups.

“What is probably not seen so much is the numerous days they spend either alone or with volunteers improving and maintaining footpaths, removing blockages to paths and streams and ensuring the parks are safe places for us all to enjoy,” he added.

“If the council persists in this short-sighted cut, we will bring alternative fully costed proposals to save the service to Bury’s budget council in February.”

Bury council, who declined to comment, aim to save £300,000 in 2013-2014 and a further £130,000 in 2014-1015.

Besides the removal of the ranger service, the Plan for Change paper proposes a much-reduced event and activities programme and a general reduction in grounds maintenance standards of paths, railings, bowling greens and buildings as well as self-management of outdoor sports facilities and reduced grass cutting.

David Stanley, chair of the Prestwich Festival and Prestwich Clough Day, said the Park Rangers involved in more than 80% of the activities published in the ‘What’s on in Bury’ event guide and plans for next year’s events rely on the support of staff Bury Council are trying to make redundant.

“This news is very upsetting because we know many of the people affected, who over the years have become friends of myself and my team,” he said.

“It also causes major problems to the budget of the events because this is based upon the availability of support from the Ranger service.”

He criticised the council for showing a ‘knee jerk’ reaction by concentrating on the bottom line of services.

“There seems to be no joined up thinking looking at how the loss of services will impact on the local economy as well as the health and well-being of local residents,” he said.

“While a number of jobs at the grass roots level are under threat, the number of managers and supervisory staff required to run a reduced service remains as before,” he said.

“If we are not careful the only council employees left will be management.”

A petition to lobby the council to reconsider, created by Maria Hourigan, can be found at https://burymbc.firmstep.com/default.aspx/RenderForm/?F.Name=H7g1ioQuyob

For more information about public consultation on the Plan for Change go to http://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=6815

Picture courtesy of Bury Council, with thanks

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