4. Other approaches
Turning to other tactics, where we try to influence councillors through carrot-and-stick approach, we can focus on what a given member may gain or lose. I’m not keen on telling them off and saying they’ll lose votes and so on. They hear that anyway, and they’ll also know what the real vote-losers are.
Instead, I’d focus on how they can benefit from our energy. What most councillors want is for their patch to gain good marks, so most will support anything locals do to make positive change. If you go to a member and say you’ll help manage a volunteer group so long as there are plenty of Rangers, you will have ticked several boxes for that ward, and any sensible councillor would make an extra effort to protect that budget.
Focusing on alternatives brings me back to my starting thoughts. What can we do to find funds elsewhere? Someone on Facebook suggested levying a congestion charge, and using it to pay for greenspace maintenance. I like that idea. At the time, I didn’t know that it’s exactly what Cllr Trickett has mooted. I also didn’t know that a Coventry MP and a 4th rate newspaper rubbished the idea without so much as a kind word. (Best not to let me get started on topics relating to public malfeasance by the 4th Estate, journalistic incompetence, and the deterioration of political discourse, as I don’t know when to stop. So I’ll do a separate post about that, when I can find the words to write about reporters and editors who undermine the public trust.)
I like the idea of congestion charges, just as I like the idea of 5p for carrier bags, & bottle deposits. But it will take too long to set up; it’s not going to save the Parks and Rangers budget this year. This would be the case with any number of other funding streams. Setting them up takes a long while. So we ought to look for money that’s already available. I think we can’t look at private sector money, at least not in the short term. I’d accept a limited corporate sponsorship of parks maintenance; but no financial sector involvement, please. :p
Do I have enough info to identify alternative funding sources? Nope. Can I speculate? Yes. For example, does the NHS have money for fitness programmes? How about Sport England? What about the Public Health bodies? I want to know who has money, and how that money could support greenspace and activities therein. I think there could be stop-gap ways to use lottery money to fund training for volunteers, who then provide specific services – and which the council can draw some income from. This requires a willingness on the parts of BCC and funders. But it can be done. It requires lateral thinking and a willingness to loosen up. Not likely, I know. But still worth requesting.
Given the crude and unexplained way cuts have been targeted, I believe the council have not looked into alternatives. I think the current targets are cursory and unexamined. We are having to do their job for them, but without the resources. So I reckon we ought to be swatting it right back at them.