Long-term future of St Helens park ranger service remains unclear

St Helens park rangers will be funded until March of next year
St Helens park rangers will be funded until March of next year

St Helens’ park rangers will be funded until March of next year – but questions still remain over the long-term future of the service.

A public consultation over the future of the borough’s open spaces, which included proposals to axe the ranger service, was launched by St Helens Council in January 2018.

Following overwhelming opposition from the public, Labour pledged to protect the service during the run-up to the local elections last May.

In June the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed the remaining four park rangers had been informed their redundancy notices had been cancelled.

And in December a formal decision to maintain the ranger service was taken through delegated powers, while the council undertakes a strategic review of parks and green spaces.

On Wednesday the council’s environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel, was updated on the parks review and the ranger service.

Coun Lynn Clarke, cabinet member for better neighbourhoods, revealed the council has committed to fund the ranger service until March 2020.

The Labour councillor also said a report on parks and green spaces review should be ready by the summer.

Haydock Labour councillor Martin Bond, chairman of the panel, sought assurances about the future of the ranger service.

However, the Labour councillor acknowledged the financial uncertainty facing the council stemming from the government’s upcoming fair funding review, which will affect how funding is allocated and redistributed to local authorities from 2020 onwards.

Coun Bond said: “From my point of view, I live near quite a large park and it’s a lovely place.

“The rangers are hugely important. But also, they have lives and families and mortgages to pay and everything.

“I know it’s subject to the government telling us and they probably won’t tell us until the very last day of the year – it leaves a short space of time.

“For those people it would be great to know how secure their jobs are. But I know it’s dependent on other things.”