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Council cuts could cause garden closures on Portland
COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of ‘vandalism’ after slashing the parks budget in Weymouth and Portland.
It is feared the cuts – which would save almost £150,000 over the next two years – could lead to the closure of the only two gardens on Portland.
It comes after funding for some summer activities were withdrawn.
Proposals for parks include stopping regular grass cutting in Weymouth, axing the lengthsman ‘odd job’ service and handing over the maintenance for Victoria and Easton Gardens on Portland to community groups or the Crown Estate.
Portland councillor Ray Nowak, pictured, said it would have a ‘huge impact’ on Portland and accused the council of looking after Weymouth before the island.
He said the Crown Estate, which owns both gardens on Portland, could decide to do something else with the land if it was not looked after. Facilities at the sites include tennis courts, play areas and a bowling green.
Coun Nowak said cuts would result in ‘borough vandalism.”
He added: “It’s vital that both these community gardens are retained and this latest crazy idea from the council needs to be nipped in the bud.
“The council staff, along with the ‘Friends’ of the gardens, do a fantastic job in keeping both gardens looking good.”
The proposals have come forward as Weymouth and Portland Borough Council struggles to save money in light of reduced government funding. Weymouth and West Dorset councils have to save a further £3.5 million over the next 18 months.
A budget working group exam ining areas to save money has identified £75,930 savings from the parks budget for next year. This includes reducing the frequency of grass cutting for amenity areas from 12 to nine cuts a year. A report says cutting reduced last year due to Olympic pressures so keeping it at this level is viable. Stopping the lengthsman service will ‘impact on environment quality’ but some jobs could still get done. A further £74,000 would be saved in 2015/16 by exploring the return of maintenance for Victoria and Easton Gardens to the Crown Estate agents and/or community groups. There would need to be discussions with the freeholder and Friends’ groups to explore grants and community involvement but the council says the gardens could ‘fall into disuse’ impacting on the community ‘affecting the council’s reputation.’ Speaking at the management committee, Coun Ian Munro-Price feared there was no guaran tee of ongoing maintenance in the long-term.
Coun Nowak said the council’s policy seemed to be to ‘look after Weymouth seafront and town, then Portland.’ He added: “It’s all very well getting groups to plant a bulb but if we don’t have a quality service places will start to look run-down.”
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