More funding for staff in parks

From The Argus

New funding will increase staffing at “under-pressure” city parks such as The Level

MORE funding has been made for staff to monitor Brighton and Hove’s “under-pressure” parks.

A Brighton and Hove City Council budget underspend of more than £600,000 will be used to pay for a weekend manager at some of the city’s busiest parks.

Money will also be made available to contribute to the Shoreham Memorial, a loan to Saltdean Lido, more support for unions and to launch a community scheme for ward councillors.

The move was criticised as irresponsible by Conservative councillors who proposed initially putting the sum into reserves until the end of this financial year in which the authority has to make £21 million of cuts.

They described increased union funding as a bribe to keep them quiet after recent threats of industrial action over the outsourcing of the learning disability accommodation service.

The Tories also claimed additional money for ward councillors was “papering over the cracks” of criticism of the council’s support for its members expected in the yet-to-be-published Local Government Association peer review.

Green amendments reduced the amount set aside for the ward member community budget scheme from almost £300,000 to £60,000, undid almost £200,000 of cuts from February’s budget and raised parks funding by a further £27,000.

Councillor Tony Janio, Conservative group leader, said the minority Labour administration should have brought forward a “mini budget” allowing all councillors to vote on how to use the underspend.

He said: “Instead what we find is £800,000 suddenly being thrown around at the administration’s will.

“This administration is a fiscally incontinent machine, it sees money and wantonly spends it.

“They should take the underspend in month two when there is little idea what the outcome will be in month 12, and put the money in reserves and then have a proper discussion of how to benefit the citizens of the city.”

Fellow Tory Andrew Wealls described the move as: “£300,000 to bung to councillors to spend in their own wards.

“The LGA report doesn’t say bung money to spend, it says support them with casework.

“It doesn’t say bung the unions £50,000.

“The idea of giving unions support through this process is complete and utter nonsense. “The unions have done everything in their power to uphold the transfer to Grace Eyre. “Now they want to bribe them to go away and stop making life so difficult for us.”

Councillor Gill Mitchell, deputy leader, said the underspend showed the administration was showing good financial management which the Conservatives should welcome.

She said: “It is responsible from the administration to get additional grass cutting and getting additional eyes and ears in parks when it is needed into evenings and weekends.