Green space specialists have reacted with concern to a suggestion from the new Improvement & Development Agency (IDeA) head Rob Whiteman that parks services facing radical cuts could be delivered via a more volunteer-oriented model like the National Trust.
Speaking to the Guardian last week about council services including parks, Whiteman said: "Running things is probably going to be more like the National Trust, where we rely on interested parties, volunteers and communities rather than employing everybody."
He argued that there was a need for greater localism in the delivery of all services. Explicitly addressing how that might apply to parks, he said: "We could have a London Trust that runs our parks and open spaces and would be accountable to local government, which would set it up but would capture the involvement of communities in being able to run their own parks.
"We're going to see new models developed where local councils join together to create vehicles for the community to run their own services - where people say: 'We'll run that now on a voluntary basis.'"
But his comments were greeted with scepticism by parks consultants. Sid Sullivan said: "The view of a 'third sector' or public interest in running all parks is naive and defies experience. The public do not want to, do not have the experience and would be unable to achieve much on the likely budget. That is before we consider issues such as, capacity, experience, expertise, willingness and equality."
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