Birmingham’s natural environment needs you

Thursday 19th December 2013

Birmingham City Council has made a series of proposals which seek to reduce spending by cutting services that help to protect, manage and improve the natural environment / natural capital in the City, including its green spaces. No final decisions have been made yet. The Council wants to know what we and you think first.

A healthy and high quality natural environment is of fundamental importance to the City Council’s aspiration for Birmingham to be an “Inclusive City” and to be an internationally important “Green City”. The natural capital of the City and the services it provides play a key role in providing a healthy environment, healthy people, healthy businesses and economy, and in securing a high quality of life. Birmingham Parks have already made savings in the region of 25% since 2010.

The City’s natural environment and its green spaces need you – and everyone you know – to respond to the proposals. If there are enough objections we can change the plans. 

To see the full review please go to www.birmingham.gov.uk/budgetviews . For the short version look on the same page under “Local Services Factsheets” - Parks & Open Spaces are on pages 46-47.

You can respond to the proposals by completing this questionnaire - www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/budget/budgetviews2014/consult_view

Please don’t be put off by the length of the survey! Sections 4,5,6 and 8 are the main ones for the natural environment related issues and Section 5 is the one relevant to Parks & Open Spaces. To help you respond we have put together a summary of the main impacts for the natural environment and some ideas about how to respond

 

IMPACTS OF THE PROPOSALS
For us, you and your family the cuts will mean:

  • The loss of 8 Rangers - the people we liaise with to support volunteer work days and activities on sites across Birmingham. The Trust and our volunteers can help more but we cannot do it without guidance, insurance cover and technical support from the Council. 1 ranger can secure the help of 100 volunteers.
  • A reduction in the woodland team of between 4 and 8 posts, just when we need more trees to cope with climate change and it costs 60% less to manage trees than it does grass.
  • Halving the number of grass cuts though welcome will still require some input to remove and bale the crop and keep the paths open, if we and wildlife are to benefit from more wild flower-rich meadows.
  • Selling off green spaces and our natural capital will not be acceptable, but could be a consequence of these cuts - there are 12m visits a year to the city's green spaces providing valuable benefits to people, wildlife and business. These benefits are worth £12.8m each year.
  • We need to find more imaginative ways of generating income from managing our natural capital to protect it and the benefits it provides, including people's access to it.
  • The Trust brings in around £1m of resources each year to invest in the city's natural capital, but we need people to work with in the Council to target and maximise the benefits this brings - especially the planners, parks and sustainable development officers.
  • There is a risk that if the natural environment is not a priority, the City Council’s aspiration for Birmingham to be an internationally renowned “Green City” will be compromised, and Birmingham will not be an “Inclusive City”.
  • We need as many people as possible to tell the Council about how important the natural environment and green spaces are to them and their community. The Parks Service has made significant savings over the last 4 years and these proposed cuts will hit core services. Using the information above might help you to respond. Below are a few more ideas.

HELPING YOU RESPOND

“How do you think the proposed budget cuts to services that aim to improve community life and build social capital, well-being and community engagement will affect you and your family?”

Depending on how you use Parks & Open Spaces responses to this question could include:

  • Having staff present mean we feel safe using our green spaces, that they are well-cared for and welcoming.
  • A safe, well cared for green space is one in which we are able to take exercise, get fitter and stay healthy.
  • A safe, well cared for green space is where we can meet our neighbours, volunteer & develop our community.
  • Without the staff we wouldn't be able to do as much volunteering.
  • Play areas and green spaces are safe, free, local places for families to play, to get exercise & fresh air.
  • With 1 in 4 10&11 years olds in Birmingham said to be obese we have to create more places to play not fewer.
  • If children can’t play safely in the streets any more, green spaces are more important than ever.
  • Green spaces are one of the few traffic-free places that children of all ages can get active, fit & develop independence.
  • The Rangers are important custodians of the city’s natural environment – they undertake the management of our open spaces.
  • Without the Rangers volunteers would not be able to do the work they do improving the environment on our doorsteps.

“Do you have any other suggestions on how the Council may spend less on these services?”

  • Volunteer groups already do thousands of hours of work looking after the city’s open spaces – saving thousands of pounds.
  • This level of volunteering would not be possible without the support of the City Council Staff – they provide the basic services and the expert knowledge – without which volunteers cannot add value and they certainly couldn't take on more.
  • Volunteers cannot replace jobs - volunteers provide added value – volunteering saves money but it isn’t free.
  • Volunteers need support – insurance, training, tools, first aid, risk assessments – all of which need to be provided by experts.

Please pass this email on to your family, friends and neighbours and encourage them to have their say. We need as many people to respond to this consultation as possible. Please act now before it’s too late.

All replies have to be in by the 10th January 2014 so please get this message out as quickly as possible. Your voice can make a difference.

www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/budget/budgetviews2014/consult_view
 

You can download our response below.

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