This is really important. You’ll recall that a couple of weeks ago I, and other members of the local online community made a passionate plea for the preservation of the Walsall Council Countryside Services team, and the vital work they do.
Well, it’s all kicking off. Walsall are axing two of the four department posts, which may save two salaries, but will result in the decline and decay of the best assets of the borough. Two staff aren’t nearly enough to achieve the management, education and conservation work currently undertaken. Such a loss is short sighted, will cost the council more in the long run, due to increased ASB and emergency management required, and will destroy one of the things that Walsall does best.
We cannot let this go without a fight. How many people know, for instance, that without Countryside Services there would be no externally funded refurbishment of Barr Beacon, and no volunteer groups working to maintain the open spaces we have?
For a coalition council whose political control mimics that of the coalition government, boldly pontificating about the third sector and The Big Society, this action will destroy one of the best embodiments of it. Is that really what they want?
Perhaps if so much money hadn’t been squandered on paying off Serco, funding the ridiculous Gigaport (now known as the Giggleport hereabouts, thanks Martin) or paying third-party agencies for consultants and overpriced heads of department, we wouldn’t be in such a mess.
For any councillors reading this, check out what this team actually do. I’d guarantee if you knew, you’d be surprised and amazed. Ramblers groups, outdoor education and special events all depend on this team, who in the great scheme of things cost very little – certainly less than the Chief Executive. The defenders of Walsall’s green lungs need support in the chamber. Please get in touch if you can help. Browhillsbob at googlemail dot com. In confidence.
The indefatigable Linda Mason has set up a Facebook group to co-ordinate protest and keep all interested parties in touch. Please join it. An official Walsall Council petition will follow as soon as it has been approved by the system at Walsall.
If you care, please join the Facebook group, comment here or sign the petition when it goes live.
I will be writing more about this in coming days. This is not over. Not by a long stretch.