Councils forced to sell off parks, buildings and art to fund basic services

From The Guardian: Analysis shows the financial predicament facing councils across England. Government funding has fallen by nearly 50% since 2010. Combined with increased demand for adult and children’s social care and homelessness services, as well as paying higher national insurance contributions for staff, growing numbers of unitary and county councils are relying on their reserves to balance their budgets.

Having already slashed spending on management, administration and non-statutory services, as well as raising council tax, local authorities are desperately trying to find sources of revenue. Most plan to increase or introduce charges for services such as parking, garden waste disposal, burials, planning, home care and meals on wheels. Many are also having to sell off their assets to raise cash.

Knowsley council in Merseyside is planning to sell 17 parks to developers for an estimated £40m. This will be used to create a charitable trust that will fund all future maintenance and upkeep of its remaining parks. The council will no longer fund parks and green spaces after 2019.

Knowsley is far from alone. More than half of cash-strapped councils in the north-west of England are considering selling their parks or finding other organisations to maintain them.

Council-owned museums have long been at risk. So it was perhaps unsurprising that the Isle of Wight announced it wants to sell its Dinosaur Isle museum. Theatres look equally precarious. Tom Stickland, theatres adviser at the Theatres Trust, says that some, such as Conwy civic hall and both of the theatres in the London borough of Sutton, have been forced to close.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]