A LEADING Scarborough councillor abstained from the vote to set the next budget because she felt so strongly about the proposed cuts to the park ranger service.
Cllr Janet Jefferson was openly challenged by Cllr Jane Kenyon during a recent meeting of Scarborough Council after the Castle Ward councillor refused to enter her vote at the end of a lengthy debate to set the budget for the coming financial year.
Cllr Jefferson replied that she had abstained because of the “issues of the park rangers”.
She had proposed that £21,000 – which was earmarked for budget contingencies – could be transferred into the council’s parks department to allow at least one of the rangers to be kept on but the motion was voted down.
“There’s nothing in the report saying that Manor Road will close,” she said. “£21,000 from the budget contingency could go towards the new environment officer’s department to retain a park ranger.”
The service had been threatened with the axe in a proposed shake-up and news that the park ranger jobs could go – and their work carried out by volunteers – generated a groundswell of support with a 400-signature petition handed into the town hall.
As reported Roger Burnett, the current head of the Countryside and Parks Service, would be appointed as the new community environment officer and his new role would include coordinating staff to deal with issues within the borough’s parkland.
Cllr Tom Fox, the leader of the council, said that the park rangers were not being used effectively and a lot of their time was spent travelling between sites. He added: “I do believe there’s a myth around the park rangers and what they do at the moment.”
Cllr Jonathan Dixon said: “They don’t offer a service across the borough. There must be a way of offering a service across this borough and not just in one or two places in the town.”
And Cllr Jane Mortimer, who represents the Fylingdales Ward, said she felt that keeping the ranger service was not the way forward. She said: “I don’t think I’ve seen a ranger in my area. There are other things we can spend the money on.”
The news follows an earlier announcement that the council was considering cutting at least 50 jobs in a bid to balance its budget for the coming financial year – in the wake of the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
It has also proposed Corporate Efficiency Review Programme following the appointment of Northgate Information Solutions UK as its preferred “efficiency partner”. Councillors have been assured that proposed job losses would not affect frontline services.
The proposed budget was accepted by councillors who also approved a zero per cent rise in council tax.