Union warns of ‘scruffy mess’ after Ipswich council cuts park staff

Christchurch Park in Ipswich. Unison have warned it could end up looking scruffy after spending cuts. Picture: SARAH LUCY...

Christchurch Park in Ipswich. Unison have warned it could end up looking scruffy after spending cuts. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Ipswich’s increasing popular parks could be left looking scruffy and unattractive if the council goes ahead with its threat to reduce the number of staff working there, the main union at the borough has warned.

The council announced it would be reducing its parks’ workforce as part of a budget cuts programme that was agreed earlier this month.

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Now Unison has warned that cutting a fifth of the workforce in the parks department will leaving grass verges unmown and reduce the maintenance of the parks.

And it says the cuts are being planned despite the public’s increasing reliance on parks and other outdoor spaces for exercise and socialising during the pandemic.

Unison Ipswich branch secretary David Rowe said: “The council isn’t just attacking parks workers’ livelihoods, it’s vandalising the whole town. Well-maintained parks and open spaces are increasingly vital to people’s mental and physical health, but these cuts will leave Ipswich unkempt and untidy.

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“For years, the council has prided itself on its parks but it now wants to throw the people responsible for keeping them looking so great onto the scrapheap. We urge the council to act now before Ipswich becomes a scruffy mess.”

The cuts to the park workforce were part of a range of reductions which include closing the box office at the Regent Theatre – a move that Unison said would deal a blow to culture in Ipswich.

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This month’s cuts follow earlier cost savings introduced in the summer which included the permanent closure of the town’s Tourist Information Centre in St Stephen’s church opposite the main entrance to the Buttermarket shopping and leisure centre.

The council’s cuts in July were aimed at dealing with a £10million reduction in income predicted then – but it was hoped things would continue to improve. The second round of cuts were aimed at coping with a further £5m reduction.

The council has lost income from services like car parking and fees for leisure and sports centres – and has seen a reduction of income for some of its business services.

Earlier this month council leader David Ellesmere said coronavirus would be “wreaking havoc” with council finances well into next year.

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