We now have a clearer picture of the cuts in government funding to The Royal Parks agency. The news is very bad.

Funding will be cut by 36 per cent in real terms over the five years from 2009/10 (the last full year) to 20014/15, with the bulk (20 per cent) of the cut occurring in the first two years.

This is higher than the 25 per cent “headline” figure put out by the government (and reported by us previously) because there was already a 10 per cent cut from last year and because TRP were not allowed to recover from DCMS the budgeted £500,000 income lost when the new government rescinded parking charges in Richmond and Bushy Parks.

Since government funding is only 55-60 per cent of TRP income (the rest coming from commercial activities), the cut required in TRP’s spending is around 20 per cent, but it still amounts to £6 million a year, of which Richmond Park’s share is about £500,000.

TRP has issued a statement which talks in general terms about their priorities, as set out in the December Park Diary. We have been told that the cuts will bear least heavily on the maintenance of green spaces (12 per cent) and of grey spaces – roads, buildings etc – (18 per cent), and most heavily on staff and marketing (about 25 per cent). We wrote to TRP earlier this year encouraging them to spread the cuts in this way, so we are pleased it is happening like this.

The cuts will mean a reduction in TRP staff from around 130 to under 100 over the next four years (some posts have already gone); additional cuts in budget for contractors who do all the maintenance work; a reduction in marketing, finance and HR; and a withdrawal from education delivery (eg the centre in Bushy), arts support and sports out-reach and some sports facilities.

Over the next three to six months there is the possibility of cuts in three areas, all of which we are concerned about:

  • The merger of Richmond and Bushy Parks management, and cuts in the Park assistant posts
  • Cuts in wildlife officers (who manage the deer herds etc)
  • Cuts in the Ecology unit, including tree specialists

The impact of cuts in these three areas would be substantial, both on the management and maintenance of Richmond Park and particularly on new initiatives to improve the Park.