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Thousands back petition but job cuts plan presses ahead for Walsall Arboretum

By Annabal Bagdi | Walsall | News | Published:

Council bosses have been urged to save Walsall's "jewel in the crown" after fears job cuts would force the borough's arboretum to deteriorate.

Front, Jo Lester and Fiona Macmillan, joined by fellow protestors to call on council bosses to protect job roles at Walsall Arboretum

A 2,200-strong petition against plans to axe two jobs at the popular park triggered a council debate, which saw campaigners issue calls to "save" the arboretum.

It came ahead of a council vote, which saw members reject a motion calling for the planned staff restructure to be halted by Walsall Council.

Councillor Rose Martin, who represents the Paddock ward, called on council officers to "look at alternative ways" of managing the green space.

Speaking at Monday's full council meeting, she said: "This premier site, the jewel in Walsall's crown, needs to be closely managed and protected.

"This site generates income, it continues to retain a prestigious green flag award."

Council bosses have been urged to safeguard the future of Walsall Arboretum

Two jobs are now at risk after the council announced its plans for a "new integrated team" based off-site to manage its green spaces.

Former medical director Fiona McMillan, who spearheaded the petition, raised concerns the team would fail to adequately engage with residents and visitors.

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Activities and events, along with the maintenance of the park, will deteriorate if the posts are lost, she claimed.

She added: "The arboretum is the second most visited attraction in the whole of the West Midlands.

"If staffing visits drop and events drop, the park will become less safe.

"We ask our councillors to preserve these two posts and save the arboretum before it vanishes."

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Walsall Arboretum

Campaigners from Walsall Arboretum User Group (WAUG) packed into the council house to show their support, bursting into applause after Ms McMillan made her case.

Their efforts were praised by Councillor Aftab Nawaz, who tabled a motion calling on the council to rethink its plans - later rejected by colleagues.

He said: "The arboretum has been used for generations. It is part of Walsall life and it will be a tragedy if it is impacted by these cuts."

The authority announced it was reorganising its public health lifestyle contracts, sports and leisure development and clean and green teams to make almost £400,000-worth of savings in April.

It would put at risk the parks manager and marketing and activities co-ordinator jobs at Walsall Arboretum, with changes due to come into effect on August 1.

The announcement triggered protests from WAUG, with members handing their petition to the council in May.

The size of that petition meant the issue had to be discussed at full council.

Annabal Bagdi

By Annabal Bagdi
@AnnabalB_Star

Senior reporter based at head office in Wolverhampton. Get in touch on 01902 319 229 or at annabal.bagdi@expressandstar.co.uk

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