‘Leave the parks to grow wild’ says think tank as council looks to save £49m

View from the roof of Fairfax House looking across to the Bucks County Council tower
View from the roof of Fairfax House looking across to the Bucks County Council tower
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Bucks County Council needs to plug a financial black hole of £49m over the next four years, according to its leader.

At the council’s annual debate, Martin Tett said that there were tough times ahead as purse strings are tightened further.

Suggestions for money-saving include making cuts to library services, turning off street lighting, scrapping gritter lorries in favour of giving grit salt to residents and leaving parks to ‘go wild’ in the hope that volunteers step up to tend them instead.

The chamber heard these from guest speaker Richard Parker – director of think tank the New Local Government Network – as he spoke about ways other local authorities which are feeling the strain across the UK have been cutting costs.

He said: “We’re going to see a £14.5 billion spending gap for all local services by the end of the decade, and 25% of councils are facing some sort of financial risk.

“We have more children and more elderly people coming into the system, so discretionary services such as libraries, lisure, culture and planning are all suffering due to this.”

An increase in demand for adult social care and children’s services will put extra pressure on the council, but more savings will come in the form of the its Future Shape strategy plan.

This document details changes such as outsourcing services, setting up new partnership trusts and making staff more ‘commercially-minded’ and aware of the cost of what they do – all while searching for opportunities to generate revenue.

Mr Tett said: “We will, without a doubt, see more people and more demand as a county council, but we will have less money. We’ve already seen our government grant cut by something like 44 per cent, and that will continue.

“I have to be very blunt – we cannot deliver the same as we did four years ago, as the money just isn’t there. There will be some very difficult choices to make, but we will do our best with the money that we have.”