Kirklees Council urged to stop park cutbacks amid 'unfit' green space fears

Councillors from across Kirklees are fearing for the health and wellbeing of their communities after cutbacks have left parks and playing fields “overgrown” and “not fit for purpose”.

At this week’s Cabinet meeting, Crosland Moor and Netherton ward councillor, Cllr Jo Lawson (Kirklees Community Independent), raised concern about the state of green spaces in her ward, and council plans to make some members of park staff redundant.

She said: “Like other councillors, we’ve all got parks, play areas, etc. and what I'm increasingly finding within the Crosland Moor and Netherton ward is they’re overgrown and the play equipment isn’t safe to go on.

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“What gets me is in a lot of playing fields where kids are supposed to be able to have physical activity - the grass is not being cut often enough. I also then find out that there are 19 out of 72 park staff that are facing redundancy which needs to be looked at in itself.

“We need to be able to get people out for their mental health, their wellbeing, etc., and when you’ve got areas that are not fit for purpose, people are frequently avoiding those.”

Leader of the Council, Cllr Cathy Scott, partially blamed the cutbacks on underfunding. She also said it is council policy to ‘enable communities’ to do things for themselves by giving them the necessary tools and equipment.

Last January, we reported that the council was asking residents to roll up their sleeves and get involved in caring for their local green spaces as the grounds maintenance department was in crisis.

Clr Jo Lawson of Kirklees Council
Clr Jo Lawson of Kirklees Council -Credit:The Labour Party

Staff shortages, budget struggles, and the inability to purchase new equipment when needed were said to be just some of the problems faced by the department. At the time, the 70 members of staff were said to be taking on a workload equivalent to that of 103 people during the summer months.

Responding to Cllr Lawson, Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees, Cllr Yusra Hussain, explained that the council has to work within the budgets it's been left with. The councillor highlighted that the parks maintenance problems are borough-wide.

Councillor Lawson added: “This isn’t just about my ward. Obviously, I can talk about my ward because I’m there trying to get the grass cut, to get bushes cut back in various play areas.

“It took me six and a half months for a small play area to finally be done and this is not an isolated case. It’s more about having the maintenance there of the grass cutting regularly, the bushes coming down and there not being litter. And yes, communities do go out and do litter picks but we cannot just rely on volunteers to take a lawn mower round a sports field to cut the grass can we?”

Councillor Cathy Scott
Councillor Cathy Scott -Credit:Kirklees Council

Councillor Hussain said: “I do take your point, but that particular department is a very small team and there’s only so much that they can cover across the entire district, so you have to give it time. There is a timetable planned for these projects to go ahead so when the time comes they will be cut. The team is very small, they always do a fantastic job with the very small, limited resources that they have.”

Other councillors shared their experiences, with Cllr Zahid Kahut (KCI, Batley West) and Cllr Viv Kendrick (Labour, Heckmondwike) speaking about problems with grass cutting at their local bowling greens.

Councillor Kendrick said that four bowling clubs that play out of Firth Park had been told the council would not cut their grass in the near future. She continued: “I know we talk about people doing things for themselves but for years, we’ve been told what a specialist job it was, so I’m not sure how the community can address that.”

Councillor Kendrick asked if the council could consider staff numbers due to the impact on communities. She added: “Things are just stopping happening that are affecting some of the older members of our communities for a start off and I’d love to see something done better about it.”

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