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Knowsley Council rethinks parks sell off proposals

Court Hey Park Image copyright Google
Image caption The cabinet will reconsider the decision early next year

A council's proposal to sell 10% of its parks has been put on hold after councillors were told to look closely at the implications for its workforce.

Knowsley Council in Merseyside said the sale of 17 parks would protect the rest from government cuts "forever".

But, its scrutiny committee returned the plan to cabinet for a review the scheme's financial security and ensure there was full public consultation.

The Green Party had criticised the plan as having been "pushed through".

The Labour-run council said it cannot afford £1.3m annual maintenance costs of its parks when funding for green spaces ends in March 2019.

'Huge gambles'

After unanimously approving recommendations by the Knowsley Parks and Green Spaces Review Board in November, the authority said it would invest £40m from the sale of land over the next 15 years in a charitable trust to run the borough's remaining 144 parks.

Council leader Andy Moorhead said the sale would "safeguard" its parks for future generations.

However, the decision was called-in by Labour councillor Sean Donnelly.

The authority said in a statement after Tuesday's meeting: "Following in-depth consideration, the scrutiny committee have unanimously decided to refer the decision back to cabinet for reconsideration.

"Members of the cabinet can consider all details before making a final decision."

Green Party councillor Kai Taylor said the cabinet was criticised for having no business plan, lack of consultation and for pushing through the project despite uncertainties about the future for the staff employed by the authority.

He said: "Andy Moorhead should rethink these proposals... he should not take such huge gambles with our parks."

The cabinet will now reconsider the decision early next year.

Analysis

Claire Hamilton, BBC Radio Merseyside political reporter

It's rare in Knowsley to see Labour councillors publicly holding their own administration to account, but that's what happened in this scrutiny committee.

It's clear ward councillors understand and sympathise with the council's financial predicament and possibly support the parks sell-off in principle.

But, they are angry they weren't consulted about the list of parks that could be sold.

This is when politics gets real for many ordinary people who realise that the green space at the end of the road may get sold for housing.

Those people will be contacting their local councillors, maybe for the first time, which in turn will pressure those elected members and force them to challenge the decision their leaders have made.

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