VOLUNTEER park groups have attacked a consultation on proposals to cut services.

A joint statement from the Friends groups for Taylor Park, Victoria Park, Queens Park, St Helens Cemetery and Friends of Clinkham Wood has blasted the process.

The Star reported on the consultation which included proposals to axe the rangers and reduce park maintenance.

The statement said the groups recognise “financial difficulties” the council faces but branded aspects of the consultation “seriously flawed” – calling for it to be restarted or for the period to be extended.

St Helens Council has since agreed to lengthen the time period for responses due to a delay in the availability of paper copies.

The authority says that by 2020 it will have £20.6 million less to spend and intends to “reduce the non-statutory parks budget by £473,000”.

The groups’ statement hit out at the time frame, with the consultation appearing on the council website on January 15, with an initial February 11 deadline. Campaigners said there was “no advance publicity” about it or the availability of documents at libraries and Wesley House. The groups claim justification to scrap the rangers emphasises “what the rangers used to do” rather than what they do now.

They also described an “assumption” that £50,000 could be saved by transferring some green assets to the voluntary sector as “rash” – adding effects “could be catastrophic”.

It added: “The council rightly says these are non-statutory services, and inevitably, will rank as lower priority.

“However we should not believe that this would be the end of cuts. This time next year more cuts will be planned and these services will be facing further reductions.

“The inevitable spiral of decline will take our parks and other green and open spaces back to the days of the 1980s and 90s when they were places most people would not visit.”

The statement added: “The council has decided its priority is to create economic growth for the borough. Surely it understands that the creation of jobs is not the only thing that makes a place attractive to investors.” Somewhere which is a place where people want to live and work with attractive and extensive environmental, leisure and cultural infrastructure plays a significant role as well.”

A St Helens Council spokesperson said the consultation has been on the local authority’s website since its launch, adding that the deadline has been extended until February 19 due to delays in paper copies being printed for display in libraries.

He said: “The council’s Maintenance of Parks, Cemeteries, Open Spaces, and Ranger Service consultation was published on the council’s website on January 15 and has been promoted via social media.

“However, due to a delay in paper copies of the consultation being printed to display in public libraries, the council has decided to extend the consultation period until Monday, February 19 to ensure that all residents and stakeholders that do not have access to online facilities have had the time to respond.”