Rangers ‘not used efficiently’

MEMBERS of the public have a “soft spot” for Scarborough’s two park rangers whose jobs are threatened with the axe in a proposed shake-up, according to councillors.

The comments were made at a meeting of Scarborough Council’s Cabinet when members were discussing the proposed financial strategy for 2011.

News that the park ranger jobs could go under proposed council cuts – and their work carried out by volunteers – to be generated a groundswell of support and a 400-signature petition was handed into the town hall.

But Cllr Jane Kenyon said there should be no “sacred cows” because the council was facing a difficult budget.

Cllr Brian Watson said the park rangers provided a valuable service. He added: “If you remove the park rangers and become dependent on volunteers you could have a group of vigilantes.”

Cllr Tom Fox, the leader of the council, said the rangers were not being used efficiently because 41 per cent of their time was spent travelling between sites.

He added: “Very little time is spent patrolling Filey, about six per cent of the time, and in Whitby it is five per cent. It is being reviewed.”

The situation had come about due to financial pressures as the council budget has been cut by central Government by £2.5 million for 2010/11.

Cllr Fox said that the Parks and Countryside Service cost the council £3.2 million every year and he was sure that efficiencies could be made. “The park rangers get reports of fly-tipping but why do we have a cleansing department,” he said.

He said that there still would be a visible presence and people would see an improvement once changes had been made.

He said: “Everybody has a soft spot for them but we have to move on because they haven’t been used properly.”

During the meeting it was revealed that 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 Fox said that volunteer organisations such as the newly formed Youth Angels could be carry out patrols in parks.

Brian Bennett, the head of tourism, said: “The best friend of the in bloom groups was Roger Burnett and it was Roger Burnett who proposed that saving to me. Roger will be the new community environment officer and he will be working with these groups in the future.”