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Greens Caution Against Southend Parks Funding Changes

The Echo Newspaper reveals today that Southend Council is investigating proposals to bring in corporate sponsorship to secure future Southend parks funding.

In its article, the Echo reports:

Southend parks could soon be sponsored by businesses and communities while visitors will be asked to make a donation to their upkeep.

Thousands of residents and visitors use the borough’s pristine and colourful parks each year but in a bid to tighten its belt, Southend Council believes it can generate some income by inviting sponsorship. Visitors will also be encouraged to make donations to the parks they use via contactless payments.

Our branch Coordinator, James Vessey-Miller was contacted for comment by the paper:

Following a reported 90% reduction of government contributions to local authority funding in the last decade, it isn’t shocking to see Southend Council try to find new revenue streams to make up for this shortfall in funding for key local services. 

Schemes similar to this for commercial sponsorship of roundabouts across the town have long being normality, so I can see the logic behind these proposals.

I welcome any increase in budget for the town’s Parks Department, who as guardians of our town’s green spaces will play an increasingly important role in the protection of natural areas and wildlife throughout our town. As the borough starts to feel the effects of climate change and ecological collapse, it is vital that the town’s green spaces are preserved, improved, and expanded if we are to meet the necessary environmental targets.

I do not believe that relying on visitors to donate to the upkeep of the parks is a responsible idea.

Residents already pay for the maintenance of our parks and open spaces via Council Tax contributions and other civic charges, and many of our town’s parks already have large groups of volunteers who give their time to help care for their local area. I fear that introducing a donation-upon-entry mentality could set a slippery precedent that could eventually lead to charging residents an admission fee to access their green spaces.

Access to green space for every person is a fundamental right that should be protected.

Such systemic changes in how the local authority pays for the talented individuals and work involved in our parks’ daily upkeep (like those proposed here) lock-in an inflexible attitude of dwindling budgets for an essential service. Such changes mean that in future, major renovation work to our parks following (increasingly-frequent) damaging storms might first require the corporate financiers to sign off on expenses, which will likely lead to a gradual degradation of our green spaces as sponsors begin to realise how much it costs.

Local businesses contributing to the upkeep of our parks as a community donation is to be welcomed, but I would also take issue with local businesses being sold the rights to erect obstructive advertising hoardings or being given the ability to dictate or influence the planning or upkeep of our few remaining green spaces. I would strongly oppose allowing private businesses to demand any say on how public land is managed as an inferred right of sponsorship. 

Public land should remain in the hands of the town, and should be managed solely by those gardeners, arborists, and wildlife experts who currently look after them, and not by private corporate interests. 

Instead of working to pass the costs of park upkeep onto residents and the business community, the council should instead reevaluate how much of a priority the borough’s green spaces are in its own budgets first. I would like to see the necessary improvements to our parks come from civic funds, not by donations from residents or those businesses interested in corporate sponsorship.

The Green Party campaigns for the protection of our town’s natural spaces.

Tackling Climate Change head-on starts at home, and we in Southend need to urgently play our part. Like Brighton, with the kind of dedication and ambition the Greens are known for, seaside towns like ours can become global leaders on environmentalism. We work to achieve this in Southend.

Whilst the other political parties treat the Climate Emergency merely as a trendy fringe issue, offering woolly and unambitious environmental targets, you know that The Greens view this issue with the seriousness and gravity it deserves, and when elected, you can trust us to instigate the biggest shift in council direction in a century.

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