A COUNCIL tax rebate should be offered to residents who help with the upkeep of their local park, allotment or cemetery.
The creation of a “green guardian” scheme is one of a series of recommendations in a think tank report on ways of preserving urban green spaces.
Policy Exchange, a right of centre body with close links to the Conservative Party, suggests authorities could offer a rebate of up to £1,500 – the average council tax bill – for people who volunteer with a community group maintaining a park.
Councils could link the rebate to the number of hours worked or set a minimum commitment before residents qualify for a rebate.
The report highlights the fall in spending on green spaces as councils cut their budgets in response to falling Government grants.
The average local authority spend on parks fell by more than 10 per cent between 2011 and 2013.
Katherine Drayson, author of the report, said: “Britain’s parks are the lungs of our great cities. They are an oasis of calm and tranquillity in an increasingly fast moving world. 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.
“With people’s disposable income still under pressure 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 spaces.”
The report suggests residents should be given the right to hold a referendum on whether those living near parks should pay a levy to help pay for their upkeep in a similar way to how companies set up business improvement districts.
It says developers should have to produce a clear plan on how green spaces created as part of new housing schemes will be maintained and paid for over the long term.
The report calls for charities that help maintain parks should be allowed to benefit from so-called ‘living legacy’ methods of donating money.
It also suggests GPs could prescribe exercise classes in parks with the class organisers paying a fee to councils for use of the space.