Proposals for the future management and funding of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces

The preferred way forward for the future management of parks and green spaces in Knowsley is their transfer to a new charitable trust with a trading subsidiary operating as a social enterprise i.e. The Knowsley Parks Trust with a trading Knowsley Parks Services Ltd subsidiary:-

The Trust will be an independent governing body for public parks and green spaces in Knowsley with its objectives set by Knowsley Council on the Trust’s creation to keep them freely accessible and deliver upon the outcomes of Knowsley’s Green Space Strategy (as examples); and

The trading subsidiary will deliver the Trust’s operational parks management and maintenance operations plus undertake services that generate income and profit through commercial activities.  Such revenue would be re-invested against the charitable, social and green space protection objectives of the Trust.

Proposal for the future funding of parks and green spaces in Knowsley

To set up a Knowsley parks and green spaces endowment fund.  Only the creation of an endowment to secure long-term return on its sensible investment provides the scale and permanence to meet the majority of the expenditure that Knowsley Council is seeking to secure from an alternative funding source (£1.3m per annum).  There are many parks trusts and other charistable trusts across that successfully rely on endowments for their core income.  These include the Milton Keynes Parks Trust, The National Trust, The Land Trust and The Woodland Trust.

Whilst the endowment will be the mainstay of the Trust’s funding strategy it is also very important that other funding / income generation opportunities are fully utilised which will also contribute to, with varying scale and longevity, the funding of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces.  This additional funding to the endowment’s income could be used to undertake site development works or community projects that bring added social or environmental value knowing that the core costs of the Trust are already met.

These other funding sources include:-

  • Traded services with the ability to generate profit (for the public good) including those provided through cemeteries (as an example);
  • Providing further encouragement and support to community volunteering, third sector and asset transfers where a sustainable business case can be demonstrated;
  • Engaging with Knowsley businesses to secure much more Corporate Social Responsibility investment (e.g. CSR Bonds) in the parks and green spaces in proximity to their premises and employees homes and for the wider benefit of the borough; and
  • Identify and secure external grant funding opportunities to support both revenue and capital infrastructure works.

Therefore negating the Council’s £1.3m contribution to the maintenance of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces would be secured through the establishment of an endowment which would be appropriately invested, and the interest earnt used to off-set the need for such Council funding.  Pump-prime funding (from April 2019) for the endowment could potentially come from prudential borrowing via Knowsley Council.  This would be paid back over 15 years from the sale of a limited number of parks and green spaces over that time frame (selected against pre-determined criteria the Board has identified at a strategic level) for new commercial, social care or housing use.

This approach enables the remaining majority of parks and green space to be retained as public green space assets forever through the return on the endowment’s investment (£1.3m) with the actual endowment fund (of approximately £40m) not being used.  Using this funding method, and by placing the parks and green spaces in an independent Charitable Trust as their custodian, would protect them from any future budget savings that the Council may need to make – this would give reassurance to the people of Knowsley that the remaining parks / green spaces would be protected in perpetuity.
The sale of a minority of sites (e.g. 10%) protects the majority (90%) forever.

What is the Board consulting on?

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 1 would involve the following:

  • The Council would seek to generate income from other activities, such as park events and other services, to meet the costs for the management of as many parks as possible
  • A selection of parks and green spaces would be left unmanaged
  • The quality of the unfunded parks and green spaces will deteriorate
  • Parks and green spaces may close
  • The Council would remain in charge of the parks and green spaces.

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.

Under this option, a Charitable Trust would take over the maintenance and management of Knowsley’s parks and green spaces.

Option 2 would involve the following:

  • Over 15 years, Knowsley Council would sell 10%, or 59 hectares, of parks and green spaces across Knowsley – for example, for housing and commercial uses. This money would be used to create £40million funding pot.
  • Responsibility for Knowsley’s parks would be handed over to a Charitable Trust along with the £40million funding pot.
  • The Charitable Trust would invest the funding pot to raise the £1.3 million per year required to pay for the maintenance and management of Knowsley’s Parks.
  • The Charitable Trust would be allowed to generate income from other activities, such as park events and other services.
  • The Charitable Trust would not be allowed to ever sell the remaining 90% of parks and green spaces.
  • The quality and benefits of the remaining parks will be protected forever for the public’s free use and not impacted by any future Council funding cuts.

A charitable trust is an organisation managed by a board of ‘trustees’ that manages funds or property for charitable purposes and public benefit. By law, charitable trusts cannot be managed for profit, political or other non-charitable purposes. Knowsley Council will be able to control the trust’s activities and what it can do with the land through a legal agreement.