Q: What is happening to parks in Knowsley?
A: At a time when many other local authorities are making significant funding cuts to their parks and green spaces budgets, Knowsley Council has recognised that it must take action to protect the borough’s parks and green spaces. In January, the council passed a ‘Notice of Motion’ which approved the creation of the independent Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board which will review funding and governance arrangements for the borough’s parks and green spaces. Importantly, the Board will consult with the public for their views which will form a key element in any recommendations they make.
Q: Why is the Council looking at changing the way parks are funded and managed?
A: Knowsley Council has lost £86m in budget cuts since 2010 and has to find another £14.8m of budget savings over the next three years. Every service across the council has reviewed what and how it delivers its services to try and identify savings. It costs the council £1.3m per year to maintain its parks and as this is not a statutory responsibility, the council can no longer afford this cost. With the available funding, Knowsley Council has to prioritise other essential statutory community services, such as services for vulnerable children and adults. Therefore Knowsley Council’s annual funding for parks is no longer available and the Government will not provide any new funding for them.
Q: Why can’t things stay as they are?
A: Doing nothing is not an option. As the council cannot continue to fund the running and maintenance of parks from April 2019, it is inevitable that parks will fall into a state of decline and close if nothing is done to safeguard their future.
Q: Why can’t the Council just increase council tax to raise the money to pay for the parks?
open=”no” style=”default” icon=”plus” anchor=”” class=””] A: The government imposes strict rules which limit the extent to which council tax can be increased – and how that money can be spent. The Council cannot raise extra money for parks and green spaces by increasing Council Tax.
Q: The Council can afford to pay for other things, so why not parks?
open=”no” style=”default” icon=”plus” anchor=”” class=””] A: While the provision of parks and open spaces are important, they are not a statutory function of councils, so any extra council tax revenue would be channelled towards vital services such as adult social care or children’s services.
Q: Who will decide on the alternative way of running parks?
A: The Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board is an independent body commissioned by Knowsley Council to undertake a review of the management of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces. The board consists of representatives from Knowsley Council, the borough’s town and parish councils, businesses, ‘friends’ of parks groups and academics. The Board is chaired by Gideon Ben-Tovim, Chair of Nature Connected (Liverpool City Region’s Local Nature Partnership). The Board will report its findings and conclusions to Knowsley Council in November, so the Council can then decide on next steps. It will be Knowsley Council that decides on the future running of parks and green spaces not the Board. The Board is advising the Council.
Q: Why do we need a Review Board to tell us this information?
A; Given the significance of the issue Knowsley Council felt it important that an in-depth review should be conducted by an independent body in order to ensure that a well-reasoned and researched proposal could be made in respect to a solution to the challenge being faced. The Board’s view has been informed through the research, field trips and questioning it has undertaken to date which has involved a lot of deliberation.
Q: Have residents had a say in coming up with solutions?
A: Yes, a robust consultation programme was undertaken in August and September. The Review Board has placed great importance on the consultation and recruited the charity Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) to conduct the market research.
Q: What were the options the Board consulted on?
A: The board identified two options which were subject to a full consultation programme with residents and stakeholders during August and September. These options were. Option 1 Knowsley Council continues to manage Knowsley’s parks and green spaces, but without a budget for maintenance and management from April 2019. Option 2 Knowsley Council transfers responsibility for maintenance and management of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces to a Charitable Trust, funded by the sale of 10% of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces. For more information about Options 1 and 2 (see Appendix 3)
Q: What is the Review Board’s recommendation for the future management and funding of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces?
A: Following the public consultation exercise, the Board’s preferred way forward for the future management and funding of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces is the creation of a charitable trust, with a trading subsidiary, with core funding being generated through the investment of an endowment, created through the phased sale of up to 10% of parks and green spaces over the next 15 years. For more details of Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board’s proposals for the future: – governance and management of parks (see Appendix 1); – funding arrangements (see Appendix 2)
Q: Does this recommendation reflect the outcome of the public consultation?
A: Yes. The majority (60%) of those who responded to the face to face questionnaire, online survey and focus groups – involving around 2,500 residents – voted in favour of the creation of a charitable trust to run parks from April 2019.
Q: What has the Board done to promote the consultation?
A: The public engagement has been in two parts: Phase 1 – Market Research: Keep Britain Tidy market research in August, included 1,100 telephone and face to face interviews with a representative sample of Knowsley’s residents; and 7 focus groups (2 with the general public, 2 with the friends of parks/ other green space interest groups, 1 with parent and children, 1 with teenagers and 1 with older persons) Phase 2 – Wider Engagement Exercise, including: various press articles and interviews (e.g. Liverpool Echo, Knowsley News, Knowsley Challenge, BBC Radio Merseyside etc); online promotion (via websites e.g. http://knowsleyparksboard.co.uk/ Knowsley News online and social media sites); outdoor promotion (e.g. bin stickers, ad-vans, posters, banners and leaflets at a range of locations across the borough); meetings with key stakeholders (e.g. the Friend of Parks Groups etc); questionnaire – Hard copy and online); general feedback – in addition to the survey local residents have been emailing the Chair directly with questions, queries or with comments and feedback on the review (gideon.reviewboard@knowsley.gov.uk)
Q: What other options have the Board explored and why were they discounted?
A; Research conducted by the Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board has explored a range of funding opportunities, and while some income could be raised in these ways, there is no guarantee that this funding would be of the sufficient scale (i.e. £1.3m every year) and reliable in its generation. It is only an endowment that could provide a secure and long term funding strategy to secure a positive future for Knowsley’s parks and green spaces.
Q: How has the Review Board presented its findings?
A; The board has included the detailed findings of its review in a full report which board Chair Gideon Ben Tovim formally presented to Knowsley Council Leader Cllr Andy Moorhead on Monday 6 November. He will also present the findings and final recommendations to a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday 28 November 2017.
Q: Is the Board’s preferred option deliverable?
A; The Board has identified a strategic way forward based on illustrative advice from experts – this was the remit it was set by Knowsley Council. It will be for Knowsley Council to undertake the detailed business case development to test the financial and commercial viability of the Board’s preferred way forward (if it accepts such a recommendation).
Q: What is an endowment?
A: An endowment is an amount of money invested for long-term income, effectively forever. Unlike a personal endowment to support a mortgage on a home, it does not have to achieve a particular value by a given date, but instead is focused on producing income annually. Its value can rise and fall over time, but if properly invested by a fund manager (who would be appointed by the Trust), should provide sufficient funds annually to fund the annual costs of the parks and green spaces. Surplus income in good years is retained by the fund to offset years when incomes are less strong. The long-term average income target believed to be viable is 3.5% or £0.035m of income for every £1m invested.
Q: Will £40m be enough to secure a return of £1.3m per annum?
A: This is the approximate figure that the Review Board has been working to and is based on the experience of endowment returns secured by The Land Trust. The deliverability will need to be assessed as part of any future detailed business case development.
Q: How will the Council ensure the Knowsley Parks Trust operates to benefit local communities and their environment?
A: Knowsley Council will establish the new trust with an independent Chair and Board of Trustees (voluntary roles) who will be selected to ensure they are properly qualified and experienced to run the Trust, and they are prepared to be held to account to the Charity Commission and Knowsley Council for the Trust’s decisions. Knowsley Council (and the Parish and Town Councils) will maintain an active role within the Trust to ensure its work best serves the communities of Knowsley as either a founding member or through trustee representation. In establishing the Trust the Council will prepare detailed legal documents to ensure that it has clear objectives and that it is outcomes are reported back to the Council. For example, the parks and green spaces will be transferred to the Trust on a long-lease (e.g. 999 years) which will ensure that only uses permitted by the Council can be undertaken on the land and they can’t be sold for alternative uses or developments without the Council’s consent. The management and maintenance of the parks and green spaces will be undertaken by Knowsley Council staff who will move over to be employed by the Trust or its trading subsidiary. The intention is that quality and approach will be remain unchanged and the community may well not notice any difference in the appearance of their local green spaces or the people involved in their management and maintenance.
Q: Will Knowsley’s parks and green spaces be well managed in The Knowsley Parks Trust?
A: Yes. In recent decades independent trusts have become a popular vehicle for managing parks and green spaces, with many having weathered the recent financial crisis in a relatively healthy position e.g. The Milton Keynes Parks Trust.
Q: Instead of creating an endowment, could the council raise money for the parks in other ways, e.g. charging for car parking, raising income from events, etc?
A: Research conducted by the Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board has explored a range of funding opportunities, and while some income could be raised in these ways, there is no guarantee that this funding would be of the sufficient scale (i.e. £1.3m every year) and reliable in its generation. It is only an endowment that could provide a secure and long term funding strategy to secure a positive future for Knowsley’s parks and green spaces.
Q: Will the Council expect public donations into The Knowsley Parks Trust?
A: No, the creation of the endowment would provide the primary funding for the management and maintenance of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces.
Q: Will this result in the privatisation of parks?
A: No. The Board’s objectives are to identify a new and sustainable delivery model for preserving Knowsley’s public parks and green spaces for future generations. None of the options identified by the Board involve the privatisation of parks. Knowsley Council would need to sell up to 10% of Knowsley parks and green spaces – which could be whole sites, or parts of sites.
Q: Would this sale result in the loss of Green Belt land?
A: No, none of this 10% is allowed to come from Green Belt land.
Q: Which parks and green spaces will be sold to raise the money?
A: As well as seeking residents’ views on the options for the future management of parks, the consultation also gathered information about what matters most to people about green spaces, how they use them and the types of open spaces they value the most. This information will be used by the Board to make recommendations to the Council on the criteria that should be used to identify the types of sites which could be sold or retained.
Q: Will the parks be sold for development?
A: The Board has been charged with protecting Knowsley’s green spaces for future generations and has a genuine commitment to preserve and protect as many green spaces as possible. If the charitable trust option is agreed, it will be progressed on the basis of disposing of up to 10% of green spaces in order to preserve 90% of the borough’s parks.
Q: Where is the map showing the 10% of park land that Knowsley Council is proposing to sell?
A: The Review Board have not identified any specific sites for sale
Q: What happens to the 10% of sites that are identified for sale during the 15 year period over which they are developed for new uses?
A: It is possible that they will be identified publically as development land but maintained in a modest manner as a green space with public access until that time. This is a matter that Knowsley Council will need to consider.
Q: Knowsley Council is already selling land for housing development, why does it need to sell park land too?
A: The Council does have a programme of land disposal through which it is currently selling various sites for new housing and commercial uses. The projected income from these sales has been taken into account within the Council’s Financial Strategy and therefore unfortunately cannot be used to off-set the need to make the saving on its parks / green spaces service.
Q: How will the sale of sites be managed?
A: They could be retained by Knowsley Council and sold as part of its wider land disposal strategy targeted at bringing new development to the borough for economic and social growth reasons. During this period they could be maintained as park land (until the time of their development) and maintained to a modest standard – this could be via a commercial agreement the Council has with the Trust or another grounds maintenance provider.
Q: If after the sale of 5% of parks / green spaces sufficient funds were raised to establish the endowment would Knowsley Council stop selling park land?
A: The Review Board would expect that Knowsley Council would keep the sale of park land to a minimum.
Q: Can the Review Board recommend that a proportion of the 10% to be sold is developed for affordable housing?
A; The Review Board has considered this and the type of housing would need to be determined by Knowsley Council through its assessment of housing type demand in the borough and the appetite of developers. Higher value housing would bring higher land sale income, which may require less park land to be sold to create the endowment.
Q: Why can’t volunteer groups take over the running of parks?
A: The purpose of the review has been to identify a long term, sustainable solution that will protect the vast majority of Knowsley’s parks and open spaces and ensure there continue to be high quality green spaces in all parts of the borough – not just a select few which may be supported by an active volunteer group. By pursuing this type of policy there is a danger that volunteer groups would ‘cherry pick’ certain parks to the detriment of the majority. Additionally experience has shown that whilst such volunteer groups do a fantastic job they cannot always commit to undertaking regular horticultural maintenance tasks or have the necessary skills / resources to operate the necessary equipment.
Q: What will the relationship be between the proposed Trust and the Friends of Parks Groups e.g. will they be competing for grants?
A: It is anticipated that this will be positive and complementary as the community groups that champion Knowsley’s parks and green spaces are the very attributes that the Trust will be set-up to protect.
Q: What commercial work could the Trust undertake?
A: There are a number of income opportunities that could be considered within a new model e.g. expanding the green space traded services offer, events, sports pitches, cemetery expansion / services income, concessions, franchise opportunities, leasing buildings and sponsorship. However, it is not expected that such contracts will be able to meet the shortfall in funding that has been identified from April 2019.
Q: Who is making the final decision on the Board’s recommendations?
A: The Board will report its findings and conclusions to Knowsley Council in November, so the Council can then decide on next steps. It will be Knowsley Council that decides on the future running of parks and green spaces not the Board. The Board is advising the Council.
Q: If it’s agreed to set up a trust, when will this take over the running of Knowsley’s parks?
A: From 1 April 2019.
Q: While the work of the Review Board is ongoing, will the activities and facilities in our parks and green spaces be affected?
A: While the review is on-going, there will be no reductions to what services, activities and facilities are available in the borough’s parks and green spaces. The Council will continue to fund parks to current standards up to 31 March 2019; it is after that date that all annual Council funding ceases.