Manchester's Park Development Programme 2021 - 2025
- Meeting of Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday, 7th December, 2021 2.00 pm (Item 58.)
Report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) attached
This report provides an overview of the financial (revenue and capital) position for parks, with reference to the impact of the pandemic and an update on the programme of investment to deliver revenue savings beyond 2021.
The Committee considered the report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods), that provided an overview of the financial (revenue and capital) position for parks, with reference to the impact of the pandemic and an update on the programme of investment to deliver revenue savings beyond 2021.
Key points and themes in the report included:
• Providing an introduction and background;
• Noting the vision, key themes and actions of the Manchester Park’s strategy;
• Information on the Parks Development Programme;
• Describing capital projects and investment, both live and in the pipeline;
• Revenue achieved through parks
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
• In relation to live projects, clarification was sought as to which Park was to benefit from new cycling facilities, subject to funding confirmation from British Cycling;
• Had any thought been given to whether there was a tipping point between the use of a park as a form of income generation and being a public accessible open space;
• It was felt that small ward parks should be kept as public open spaces and not used for income generation so not to exclude those resident who could not afford to attend events;
• How was additional funds, with an anticipated £427k income growth by 2024/25 expected to be achieved;
• How did the Council balance the letting of large contracts against ensuring small local suppliers were not excluded;
• The contribution and value that volunteers brought to local parks needed to be acknowledged;
• An audit should be undertaken on the number of parks that had access to public conveniences;
• A holistic view on the running costs of all parks was needed to understand how the spend was allocated and distributed geographically, including what was considered capital and revenue costs;
• What work was being done in respect of improvements to playing fields;
• The investment that was being made in parks needed to be promoted more to address false reporting of parks being under threat; and
• How had the park plans been impacted by the Covid pandemic; and
• Were any parks in Manchester under threat of being sold off for development.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Youth and Events confirmed that it was Wythenshawe Park that was to benefit from new cycling facilities, subject to funding confirmation from British Cycling. He added that in terms of income generation, the model developed was not to charge for basic or core services, which included access. It was more about where the Council could encourage people to stay in parks longer and choose to spend money rather than go elsewhere, such as good quality café facilities, other concession stands, bringing in attractions periodically which added value over and above the core offer. He advised that the Council had consolidated its contracting arrangements, which for example had resulted in a £90,000 per year from the sale of ice cream alone. He assured the Committee that in adopting this position, it had not been done to attract larger contractors but to derive certain benefits from economies of scale, however in practice, the Council had issued a number of lots for the sale of ice cream and all the companies that had secured these were local companies.
He also advised the Committee that the current strategy would not suggest the charging of core services to attend parks. He acknowledged that point made around the affordability of events in parks and commented that there was a balance to be struck between adding value to communities and generating income for reinvestment.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Youth and Events reported that he did not feel the Council was anywhere near the tipping point in relation to the use of parks as income generation and being public accessible open spaces and there was still many things that could be done to improve parks and generate income through secondary spend, which linked into the income targets outlined in the report.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Youth and Events acknowledged the role and contribution of volunteers to parks and would include reference to this in a future report. He added that it was recognised that parks contributed to improvements in public health and wellbeing but through austerity they had struggled to secure investment for the assets within the parks and there was a need for a stronger asset management plan for parks as part of the strategy.
It was explained that there was a separate strategy that addressed the investment and improvements to be made to playing fields and there was interdependency between the two strategies. In relation to Park plans, these were important as they set a framework for investment, however given that £960,000 had been allocated to delivered improvements across every ward, the absence of a park plan would not prevent improvements from taking place. The impact of the pandemic had been the inability to have face to face meetings with “Friends” groups and people’s reluctance to do things that were not seen to be essential.
The Head of Parks, Leisure, Youth and Events assured the Committee that no park in Manchester was under threat of being sold off for development.
(1) Notes the report.
(2) Request a future report that provides a more holistic view on the running costs of all parks and allotments to understand how the spend is allocated, and distributed geographically, including what is considered capital and revenue costs.