TaxPayers Alliance criticised over golf idea10th January, 2014 by Alistair Dunsmuir
The TaxPayers’ Alliance is facing criticism for suggesting that local authorities should use cows and sheep rather than professional greenkeepers to cut the grass at municipal golf courses.
The campaigning body has issued 201 proposals to ‘Save Money in Local Government’, which include reducing staff training, cutting the number of traffic lights and stopping advertising for jobs in the guardian newspaper.
Proposal number 70 states: ‘Where appropriate use cattle and sheep to graze on council land rather than spending money on grass cutting.’
Fiona Farmer, of the Unite union, said the idea was dangerous and would lead to higher costs for councils.
“Has the alliance worked out how much it is going to cost to buy these animals and pay the substantial veterinary bills?
“The prospect we face is hundreds of these animals freely roaming around municipal parks ignoring health and safety considerations when children are playing – and being a prime target for urban rustlers,” she said.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association added: “The TaxPayers’ Alliance seems to have lost its bearings.
“This is a list of things councils have been doing for years peppered with a number of frankly ridiculous ideas, some of which are downright dangerous.”
However, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said town hall chiefs could learn from the dossier.
“There is significant scope for town halls to save taxpayers’ money, helping keep council tax down and protect frontline services,” he said.
“Councils which complain about so-called cuts need to read through this report and justify their spending to local taxpayers.”
The report also states that councils should sell off all their golf courses.
It comes as both of Liverpool’s council-run golf courses are to be handed over to private companies.
Allerton and Kirkby are to be given to private firms Glendale and Formby Hall PLC respectively, saving the council approximately £339,000 a year.
Councillor Wendy Simon said: “We can no longer afford to subsidise the courses to the tune of almost £5 per round, but we know how much they are appreciated by the people who use them. That is why we have worked extremely hard over the last few months to put together a deal that satisfies everyone.
“This proposal will make sure that they continue to operate at a price that is affordable to users and receive investment to make them sustainable in the long term.”
However, Hull City Council has revealed that it would have to spend £50,000 per year on maintaining Springhead Golf Course, a municipal golf course that has been threatened with closure, even if it closed it down.
The council would, it said, have to continue spending the money on business rates and general maintenance.
Meanwhile, two municipal golf courses in Leeds are waiting to see what will happen to them.
Gotts Park and Middleton were both nearly closed a year ago as the council tried to cut its costs, but both were given a one-year reprieve to improve their business performance.
The president of Gotts Park, David Gregory, said: “We have recently had lots of new members, up by 20 per cent, and it is well used by all ages.”
A spokesman for Middleton said the club has been working to provide income-generating events.
Lynne Walls, who organised the club’s recent Christmas party, said: “Over the years, the attendance at the party has gone from strength to strength.
“It’s great to see the golf club being supported by its members, particularly now, when we face closure.”