Britainís Parks & Open Spaces deteriorating ñ Thinktank suggests Tax Reforms to address the Dilemma

Policy exchange, the right-leaning think tank, has released a paper suggesting various measures to remedy the deterioration of Britainís parks, amongst which include council tax rebates for volunteers who regularly contribute to the maintenance of local parks and other open, public spaces.

The thinktank notes that local authorities have slashed spending on open spaces by 10.5% over the past few years, and due to amplified clamour for more affordable housing, UK parks could be sacrificed as development sites.

“Britain’s parks are the lungs of our great cities,” said Katherine Drayson, spearhead of the thinktankís report.

“However, as local authority budgets have been squeezed, public funding on parks, cemeteries and allotments has declined sharply. The time has come for radical new thinking to safeguard our parks and make them more accessible to everyone in society Ö a “green guardian” scheme that rewards local volunteers to help maintain their local parks with council tax rebates is just one way of protecting and enhancing our public green spacesî: She posited.

“Green guardian” volunteers who clean up and maintain local parks, allotments and cemeteries should be rewarded with council tax rebates, a thinktank has recommended.

The rebate could amount to £1500 a year, with local authorities outlining the criteria required for attainment, by deciding on the number of hours spent on maintenance by volunteers to be eligible for recompense. The think tank suggests that this could address the dwindling number of park rangers whilst strengthening community ties.

Compulsory Levy Vote

The paper also suggests that residents residing in the vicinity of parks & open spaces ought to be afforded the chance to vote on whether to implement an obligatory levy which would contribute to the upkeep of local green spaces.

The thinktank suggests that the proposed levy could be added to council tax, currently standing at an average of £1500, and those who arenít able to afford the supplementary tax would be excused from having to pay.

Those dwelling in the locality of Putney and Wimbledon Common in London already pay roughly £27 a year towards the upkeep of the aforementioned green spaces. The thinktank also proposed that developers should provide funding for new green spaces in cases where they build over existing ones. The state of Britainís parks have been subjected to much debate recently, as budget cuts have hit parks across the UK, and the government has given no indication of when these cuts will halt. The Heritage Lottery Fund warned in a recent report that nearly 50% of local authorities are inclined to sell parks and other green spaces to private firms, which could lead to a significant reduction in the number of public, green spaces.

However, the radical measures proposed by Policy Exchange have been met with discomfort by ministers due to the possible distaste further taxing could leave in the publicís mouth. Given the thinktankís right-leaning repute, many members of the public could view the advised ëgreen taxí as a stealthy manoeuvre indirectly stemming from the government to squeeze residentís pockets. That the tax has been successfully implemented in Putney and Wimbledon serves to exhibit the affluence of such areas, whilst not recognising that other deprived areas would not condone an added levy.

Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins echoed this viewpoint: “Councils already have powers to issue local council tax discounts for volunteering, and this could be a practical way of rewarding civic pride. However we do not agreed with the calls in this report for a new tax on residents who live near open green spaces. “Hard-working people already pay a lot of money in council tax and they deserve decent services in return. Councils can make sensible savings through more joint working, better procurement and cutting waste and inefficiency.”

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