Decision to leave Sunderland parks open overnight to be discussed at council meeting

Councillor Peter Wood.
Councillor Peter Wood.
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Councillors will question the decision to leave some of Wearside’s most popular parks open at night at a city council meeting later this month.

The Echo revealed on Saturday that Sunderland City Council has decided to stop using a private security firm to lock park gates at a number of sites as part of cost-cutting plans.

Members of The True Friends of Barnes Park who are angry that the private security firm will not be locking up the park at night.

Members of The True Friends of Barnes Park who are angry that the private security firm will not be locking up the park at night.

Chiefs say the move will save about £80,000 a year and that the move was made because of huge pressures on budgets.

But residents and political groups including Wearside’s Liberal Democrats have hit out at the move, saying it will leave beauty spots such as Barnes Park, Thompson Park and Roker Park as well as Hetton Lyons and Hylton Road playing fields vulnerable to vandalism and other anti-social behaviour.

Now, Sunderland’s Conservative group has submitted a “notice of motion” for debate for discussion at the council’s next full meeting on Tuesday, June 28.

Tory leader Coun Peter Wood today said the move was a “false economy” and called for the decision to be reversed.

They say they cannot afford £80,000 for park and cemetery security in the city whilst spending £260,000 a year of council taxpayers’ money on the salaries of full-time trade union officers employed at the Civic Centre.

Coun Peter Wood

“I have been approached by users of Barnes Park unhappy at the council’s decision to end the locking of the park at night and take away the security patrol,” said Coun Wood.

“As a user of the park myself I understand the concerns of residents.

“This is a false economy proposed by the Council and questions their priorities.

“They say they cannot afford £80,000 for park and cemetery security in the city whilst spending £260,000 a year of council taxpayers’ money on the salaries of full-time trade union officers employed at the Civic Centre.

“I have spoken to council officers about the situation - as have some of the residents - and will have further discussions with them before the council meeting.

“I will also be keeping in touch with users of Barnes Park concerned for the future of their lovely park.”

The city council’s portfolio holder for city services Coun Michael Mordey said when the move was announced: “The 24-hour openings are expected to generate savings of nearly £80,000 per year.

“There are no council job losses.

“The council is having to make decisions like this because the Government has cut more than £200million from our budgets since 2010.

“The council is cutting its budget by £46million this year, and expects to cut more than £100million in the next four years.

“Every day thousands of people enjoy and respect our city’s parks, anyone with concerns about anti-social behaviour or crime can contact Northumbria Police on 101 or the city council on 520 5550.”