Haringey Council has virtually given up on park maintenance. According to a report in The Observer they now have only three gardeners for their 46 parks. A visit to Downhills Park reveals:
Cardboard and polystyrene takeaway boxes are strewn around, nettles are flourishing and there is no sign of a park attendant or even someone sweeping up the leaves.
"Its shabby," said local resident Yash Khan, walking alongside his scootering granddaughter. "This litter didn't used to be so bad. What's going on?"
Of course "the cuts" are blamed. It is true that the Government grant to Haringey Council is down from £155 million last year to £144 million this year. The level of the cut varies a bit from one council to another according to a complicated formula that nobody can understand. My council of Hammersmith and Fulham got £126 million last year, down to £116.5 million this year. Councils also raise their own revenue via the Council Tax, and Haringey's is exceptionally high – their share of the bill at Band D is £1,184.
Haringey does have to make significant savings – but then so do the rest of us. Overall, standards in parks have been maintained or even improved. This year saw a record number of Green Flag Awards – at 1,424. Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster save money on back office costs through joint working. Haringey lets the nettles grow and the litter pile up.
Haringey has 11 Council funded union officials. It spends £3.4 million on publicity and so presumably has a similar number of council funded press officers. Yet it has just three council funded gardeners. Residents are entitled to question whether it has the right priorities.