A DECISION to cut the number of park rangers to four has sparked anger from volunteer groups.

The service, which has been subject to previous reductions, was culled further after a delegated executive decision was made in March.

The number of rangers had been previously cut from 26 to 11 previously before it was reduced further to eight two years ago.

And volunteer groups at the borough’s parks are concerned the latest cuts will have a devastating impact on the borough’s parks and a petition has been launched which has collected hundreds of signatures so far.

“This would push it over the edge and would result in serious deterioration of the parks,” said secretary of the Friends of Taylor Park Peter Yates.

“We had made representations about this but in March the council made a delegated decision which means it wasn’t made public.

“They’re not asking the public what they want and have gone ahead and done this in a slightly underhand way.

“It was an ‘exempt’ decision which means no details of the saving arising, what options and alternatives had been considered, what plans to minimise the negative impact were considered or what implications on the people and services in the borough would be.

“Over the years the effect (of cuts) has been felt in the town’s parks and open spaces with increased litter and dog fouling, anti-social behaviour and less responsive action to deal with site problems.

“It would be a massive waste of money spent on them, from lottery funds and the council itself has put a lot of money in over the years.

“They have shed jobs like nobody’s business over the last four years or so and in the parks you can already see the difference, there is less litter picking.

“At Taylor Park there are three rangers so it is particularly well maintained. If you go to Sherdley or Sutton where there aren’t any based the parks look a lot messier and some of the parks are an absolute shambles. We all sympathise with the problem but this seems to be ill-considered.

“Four cannot provide effective cover, at times we could have one ranger for the whole borough.”

Cabinet member for green, smart and sustainable borough, Cllr Seve Gomez-Aspron, said: “We all know what great work our rangers do in local parks, but with essential services like adult and children’s social care to protect – despite a further reduction in national funding – we are faced with the difficult task of identifying the least worst options in order to make savings.

“This has been forced on us by the government’s austerity policy. The national debt has tripled, yet the government is committed to cutting a further £20.6m between now and 2020 from our council. This is austerity. If people don’t like the outcomes, as I don’t, then they don’t like austerity.”

He added: “Fortunately we were able to avoid forced redundancies here, but a devastating part of austerity means we have to cut staff who do a fantastic job. It isn’t fair but the government are making us do it by cutting so much.”